Houses have been rebuilt, vegetation has grown back, and life is back to normal since the Firestorm, but being prepared for another is paramount

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 — remains constant.

The city of Berkeley has taken many steps since the catastrophe to help prevent, or deal with, another one. Some of those include vegetation abatement, changes to building codes, firefighter training and equipment. Read the full list of measures compiled by Berkeley. “Much of this would not have been possible without resident and voter support, and these investments are a real testament to our community,” says City of Berkeley spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross.

To remind people of the likelihood of future disasters and to show them how to prepare and survive, local cities and officials are planning a day of workshops and fairs in the East Bay this weekend:

  • Saturday, 9 a.m.: The cities of Berkeley and Oakland will hold a firestorm remembrance starting with a 9 am reflection at the Rockridge BART station Firestorm Tile Wall.
  • Saturday, 10:30 a.m.: At 10:30 am, there will be a formal Commemorative Ceremony of Remembrance at the Gateway Emergency Preparedness Exhibit Center at Tunnel Road and Caldecott Way. Mayor Tom Bates and Fire Chief Debra Pryor will speak.
  • Saturday, noon: At noon, the cities will host a Family Preparedness Fair at Lake Temescal. (Enter by the north entrance.) Billed as an event with “something for everyone,” the fair will have fire trucks, face painting, bouncy houses, barbecue, Fenton’s ice cream, hot dogs, free giveaways, as well as emergency supplies to purchase. There will be lots of booths about preparedness. Berkeley residents can also learn more about the city’s Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) program, which will help you prepare your homes and neighborhoods.
  • Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Supervisor Keith Carson and Alameda County are sponsoring a disaster preparedness workshop from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday Oct. 22 at King Middle School, 1781 Rose Street, Berkeley. Representatives from Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the Alameda County Fire Department, the Berkeley and Oakland Fire Departments, the Red Cross, and others will be on hand.Workshop topics will include Protecting your Family, Protecting your Pets, Pet First Aid, Reunification in case of a Disaster, and How to Prepare your own Disaster Kit. Advance registration is encouraged.

See a listing of Berkeley events.
See a listing of Oakland events.

Finally, if you aren’t able to get to any of the events, at least try to read the City of Berkeley’s Emergency Preparedness advice.

This article is the final part of our “Firestorm Special” series which we have run on Berkeleyside over several days in the run-up to October 20, 2011, the 20th anniversary of the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm. Read previous Firestorm Special stories.

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...