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The Oakland-Berkeley Hills Fire: Twenty Years Later

Berkeley Patch details the best coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Oakland-Berkeley hills fire, plus upcoming memorial and informative events.

Remembering the Firestorm

Twenty years since the Oakland-Berkeley hills fire tore through 1,520 acres of the East Bay, destroying more than 3,000 homes and killing 25 people, the memory of the blaze is still poignant. The families it impacted are still seared with the memories — and the loss.

News outlets across the Bay Area have marked the anniversary with a host of compelling stories about the people hardest hit.

Patch's own David Mills , watching the devastation unfold and talking to people with incredible — and often tragic — stories to tell.

The San Francisco Chronicle shares the story of Virginia Kleker, who was 13 years old when she found her grandmother "burned into ash" along with her home in the Oakland hills. Kleker killed herself on the same spot 17 years later. Her families recalls the devastation caused by the fire that killed 25 people and destroyed 3,000 homes in a single day.

The Oakland Tribune has a story about the warped hunk of metal that Mark Zinns lovingly carries with him on occasion — remembering the restored '60s-era Porsche it used to be, before the fire. 

Witnesses and victims share their memories of the Oakland-Berkeley fire in a three-part series on Berkeleyside. Read part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Did you know that the creator of Sim City was inspired to make the computer game after losing his home in the fire? Check out Berkeleyside's profile on Will Wright

Escaping the fire is one story — fighting it is another. Read about what the fire was like from the perspective of a firefighter on Berkeleyside, with a story about Fire Chief Debra Pryor and her experience battling the blaze.

Memorial Events, Information and Exhibitions

  • On Thursday, Oct. 20, at 10:30 a.m., the Firestorm Memorial Garden in the Oakland hills will be rededicated by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and others.
  • In the wake of the blaze, Bay Area photographer Richard Misrach ventured into the fire zone armed with his 8x10-inch view camera. The result was a selection of photographs revealing loss and devastation, as well as beauty. In honor of the anniversary of the Oakland-Berkeley hills fire,  and the Berkeley Pacific Film Archive until Feb. 12, 2012.
Saturday, October 22, 2011 9:00 a.m. Reflection 
Rockridge BART station Firestorm Tile Wall, College Avenue Individual expressions of those affected by the Firestorm 10:30 a.m. Remembrance 
Gateway Emergency Preparedness Exhibit Center Tunnel Road & Caldecott Lane Formal commemorative ceremony followed by a parade of fire trucks from neighboring cities and agencies who assisted during the 1991 Firestorm. The Parade will leave from the Gateway Exhibit Center and end at the Family Preparedness Fair at Lake Temescal.
Noon Family Preparedness Fair 
Lake Temescal, 6500 Broadway (north entrance) Fun and informative event for families and friends Information booths, displays, fire trucks and engines, interactive demonstrations, jumpy houses, face painting and more. Lori & RJ of Cotton Candy express to perform.

What do you remember about the Oakland-Berkeley hills fire? .

Peter C. October 21, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Important to note for Berkeleyites, the exhibition 1991: The Oakland-Berkeley Fire Aftermath, Photographs by Richard Misrach is also on view at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive through February 5.

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