Fire danger is especially high in the Berkeley hills this weekend. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

A red flag warning, signaling high fire risk, will go into effect in the East Bay beginning Friday night.

The Berkeley Fire Department sent out a warning though the AC alert system Friday afternoon, urging “extreme caution, especially in the hills,” due to a treacherous combination of high winds and low humidity.

The National Weather Service expects the dangerous conditions to persist from 10 p.m. Friday through 10 a.m Sunday.

“People in and around the Berkeley hills are encouraged to park in their driveways or garages, leaving streets clear for emergency vehicles,” the Berkeley alert said. “Use extreme caution when operating BBQs, power equipment or other heat sources such as idling cars. Fireworks are completely forbidden in the city of Berkeley and surrounding areas.”

According to Oakland’s companion alert, northern wind gusts could reach 50 to 60 miles per hour. Humidity levels are expected to be around 10 to 20% during the day “with poor overnight recoveries.”

Berkeley provides information on evacuating during a wildfire on the city’s website.

Later Friday afternoon, the Alameda County Fire Department and Cal Fire both announced they will increase staffing and response levels this weekend. “The number of units that respond to vegetation fires will increase to our peak fire season standard,” said the Alameda County Fire Nixle alert. The department currently has 34 personnel providing aid in Southern California.

According to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Friday’s air quality has reached a level deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups, including seniors, children and people with heart or lung disease. The air quality is forecasted to improve Saturday. There have been multiple “Spare the Air” days in the Bay Area so far this month.

Smoke from relentless wildfires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties has traveled to the Bay Area, but early this week had remained “above the inversion layer, creating vivid sunsets but not contributing to already poor air quality,” according to the Air District.

This story was updated with new information released after publication. 

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...