A photograph from 1923 shows buildings burning near Virginia and Walnut streets. Credit: Online Archive of California

If you hear an emergency siren at noon on Sunday, it is most likely just a drill. The city is planning a test of its emergency alert system to coincide with the centennial of a massive fire that destroyed hundreds of homes and left thousands homeless in Berkeley.

A free Fire Ready Fest is also planned for that day at Live Oak Park at 1301 Shattuck Avenue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Berkeley Fire Department will put on safety demonstrations and offer tips for fire and disaster preparedness, and there will also be food from local vendors, games and information on the 1923 fire.

What do Berkeley’s emergency sirens sound like?

There are different recorded messages for different natural disasters. You can play some of them below.

The city has already installed sirens in 10 locations:

  • Berkeley Fire Station 7, 3000 Shasta Road
  • Berkeley Harbormaster’s office, 201 University Avenue
  • Berkeley Animal Shelter, 1 Bolivar Drive
  • Zaytuna College Upper Campus, 2770 Marin Avenue
  • City Hall, 2180 Milvia Street
  • Cragmont Elementary School, 830 Regal Road
  • Emerson Elementary School, 2800 Forest Avenue
  • Sylvia Mendez Elementary School, 2840 Ellsworth Street
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, 1781 Rose Street
  • Berkeley Adult School 1701 San Pablo Avenue

The city is planning to install the remaining five sirens over the next year.

After the siren test, the city asks that residents fill out a “did you hear it?” survey online.

The Berkeley Historical Society and Museum is planning an exhibit with images from the the fire and its aftermath and historical documents including samples of the passes residents would have to display in order to access homes in the burned zone. The dates have not yet been announced.

Several walking tours this weekend will also focus on the 1923 fire and its aftermath.

Alex N. Gecan joined Berkeleyside in 2023 as a senior reporter covering public safety. He has covered criminal justice, courts and breaking and local news for The Middletown Press, Stamford Advocate and...