Op-ed: Why undergrounding utilities is not the answer to earthquake and firestorm safety

With the anniversaries of the Loma Prieta earthquake and the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm occurring in the middle of a “hot” election, there’s been much discussion about safety in the hills. Councilwoman Susan Wengraf has made this a key issue in her bid for re-election to the Council for District 6, by promising to “underground all utilities in […]

Reminder: Share your Firestorm memories at BAM

As part of a series of public events supporting its current exhibition by Berkeley photographer Richard Misrach, the Berkeley Art Museum is inviting the local community to gather at the museum this Sunday afternoon to share memories of the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm. At the BAM/PFA “Tell Your Stories: Open Mic in the Galleries” event, the […]

A fire more destructive to Berkeley than 1991 Firestorm

On the day we remember a catastrophic fire that affected many people’s lives locally, it may also pay to recall another fire which happened 68 years before the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm and which was far more destructive to Berkeley. The 1991 fire razed 63 Berkeley homes out of a total of more than 3,300. On […]

Best of Berkeleyside: This week’s most popular posts

Johnny Depp (above) and Tom Waits storm through Berkeley The Facebook “Likes” counter on this story ground to a halt when it hit 1,000, proving that even in Berkeley we are not immune to the fun of a little celebrity watching. Quakes, and then more quakes A total of four earthquakes rattled Berkeley on Thursday, two […]

Get prepared for an emergency: Here’s how

Twenty years after the Oakland-Berkeley fire ripped through the East Bay hills, killing 25 people and destroying close to 4,000 houses and apartments, houses have been rebuilt, trees and shrubs have grown back, and life has seemingly returned to normal. But the threat of fire — as well as earthquakes, as was witnessed yesterday — […]

Loss assessment: Building anew after devastation

By Kurt Lavenson Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. Rainer Maria Rilke The fire missed me that day. I was alone in my fiancée’s kitchen, up near the ridge line of the hills, drinking coffee and reading the Sunday paper. The heat and winds were unusual. Pine needles […]

Twenty years after a catastrophe, recollections — Part 3

Berkeleyside invited readers to submit their stories about the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm. Here we publish the third of three selections. [A slideshow that was published earlier today in this story has been temporarily removed as we try to deal with some technical hitches. Apologies to our readers for any inconvenience.]   ………………………….. By Peter Jenny: In 1991, […]

Twenty years after a catastrophe, recollections — Part 2

Berkeleyside invited readers to submit their stories about the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm. Here we publish the second part of three selections. By Lori: Heading back to Berkeley from Walnut Creek, the smoke was already visible over the Caldecott Tunnel. I usually take Fish Ranch Road back to North Berkeley, but that day, I went through the […]

Inspired to make The Sims after losing a home

Will Wright’s home was one of the first to burn in the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm. His quick thinking in fleeing without delay probably saved his life, and that of his first wife and immediate neighbors whom he took with him. The experience also had another consequence: it inspired him to create what became the best-selling personal […]

Fire Chief Debra Pryor: It’s important not to forget

In October 1991, Debra Pryor was a newly promoted Lieutenant in the Berkeley Fire Department. She spent the morning of October 20 in the South Bay with her mother, but when she returned to Berkeley, she picked up an assignment to relieve a fire crew in Roble Road that had been struggling with the firestorm. […]