We are reaching another Oakland Hills fire anniversary today, October 20th. While our culture likes to mark the passing of decades, it has been 18 years since the last major fire. And that lucky number equals life, which returned quickly to the decimated hills.
What happened in 1991?
The Oakland Hills fire wreaked total havoc, with 25 deaths and 150 injuries. This wildfire quickly burned across 5.25 miles and 1,520 acres, destroying 2,843 houses and 433 apartments as well as damaging another 193 houses. In financial terms, the fire produced over $1.5 billion worth of losses.
Shortly thereafter, Oakland Fire Captain Donald Parker declared, “the magnitude and scope of what is simply referred to as the ‘Tunnel Fire’ is far beyond the experience of any living American firefighter. Only those who fought the Chicago Fire last century or battled the Great Fire in San Francisco would be able to identify with this conflagration and firestorm.”
Where’s the evidence?
Since then, the tell-tale signs of destruction have pretty much vanished unless you notice the “newer” section of homes in the hills. Vegetation has grown in quickly, although everyone living in the Wildfire Prevention District must adhere to regulations to protect their homes.
Even so, we need to keep history alive because many current hills residents moved here after the raging fire. Let’s hope our community response to the next big one, whenever it happens, lessens that destructive force. Here’s to 18 years – and counting.
More info: How many Oakland fires – Hills fire history – Fire captain report – Oakland fire booklet – Oakland CORE – Oakland Wildfire Prevention District