Berkeley photographer Richard Misrach captured the devastation caused by the Firestorm. An exhibition of his work opens at BAM next week. Photo copyright Richard Misrach

As the 20th anniversary of the 1991 Berkeley-Oakland Firestorm approaches, the community is preparing to commemorate it in a number of different ways, including with city initiatives and collaborative cultural experiences.

While Oakland was much more affected by the devastating fire than Berkeley — only 63 of the homes destroyed that fateful day in October 1991 were in Berkeley, from a total of 3,354 — geographical boundaries became irrelevant as the whole community experienced the trauma of the experience as one.

The cities of Berkeley and Oakland have joined with other community partners to mark the anniversary with a formal commemorative ceremony of remembrance, and they are also taking the opportunity to remind people to take emergency preparedness measures.

The fire raged through the Oakland-Berkeley hills on Oct. 20, 1991.

On Oct. 22, people are invited to gather at the Rockridge BART Firestorm Memorial Wall at 9 a.m. Later, at 10:30 a.m., Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Berkeley Fire Chief Debra Pryor will speak at the remembrance ceremony which will take place at the Gateway Emergency Preparedness Exhibit Center on Tunnel Road and Caldecott Lane. At noon, a Family Preparedness Fair will be held at Lake Temescal, at 6500 Broadway. Fire trucks, kids’ activities and information booths are all on the agenda. Find information on the city of Berkeley website.

We are also lending our support to two Berkeley Art Museum events that are planned around the forthcoming exhibition of photographs by Berkeley photographer Richard Misrach, “1991: The Oakland-Berkeley Fire Aftermath”. The first is a free community evening on Tuesday, Oct. 11, where the community and BAM members are invited to preview the exhibition with Misrach in attendance. The show opens officially the next day.

The second Berkeleyside-supported event at BAM takes place on Sunday, Nov. 13, 3-5 p.m, and is called “Tell Your Stories: Open Mic in the Galleries”. BAM and Berkeleyside invite you to share your memories surrounded by Misrach’s compelling photographs, taken twenty years ago during the week following the Firestorm and unveiled for the first time in this exhibition.

Berkeleyside has also been collecting stories from our readers which we will publish as part of our Firestorm Special coverage that starts next week. We will retain the whole series in a collective archive. If you want to share your memories — or a photo, video or sound clip — please let us have it by Friday Oct. 7 at 5 p.m.

Twenty years on, share your memories of a disaster [09.28.11]
Richard Misrach: A focus on the after-story [08.01.11]

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...