Michael Hazell

Today in fire history: wildfire kills 25, injures 150, and destroys nearly 3,000 homes

Blog Post created by Michael Hazell Employee on Oct 20, 2011

A conflagration occurred in the hills above Oakland and Berkeley California on October 20, 1991.  Burning embers carried by high winds from the perimeter of a small but growing duff fire ignited overgrown vegetation and led to the ignition of tree crowns and homes.  The fire grew so rapidly that 790 homes were consumed in the first hour of the fire.  The cause of the original fire was labeled “suspicious” and many factors came together to contribute to the rapid spread of the fire:

  • A five-year drought dried out overgrown grass, bushes, trees, and shrubs, making them easily ignitable
  • The parched leaves of closely spaced trees touched in certain areas and overhung homes in others
  • Untreated wood shingles were the predominant roof covering for homes in the area
  • On the day of the fire, unseasonably high temperatures, low relative humidity, and strong winds pervaded the area

NFPA members can read the full investigation report for free.  For more information protection from fires in the wildland urban interface, please visit www.Firewise.org, where you will find a variety of resources and programs.  NFPA's video "Fire in the Hills" is also aviailable on the www.Firewise.org site.

-Ben Evarts

Outcomes