Pictures of the 1991 Oakland Hills Firestorm

(Click on a picture to see the full-size version)

On Sunday, October 20, 1991, a firestorm swept through the Oakland/Berkeley hills area. Fed by hot, dry, gusting winds from the central valley, the flames spread rapidly out of control. The firestorm engulfed 1500 acres, destroyed over 2800 houses, and killed 25 people.

This is a combination of two pictures that I took of the flames. Most of the flames are obscured by the smoke, but you can see several houses burning on top of the left hill, and a glimpse of the flames on the right side, beyond the seam. The fire area covered almost the entire width of this picture. I watched from the window of my dorm as the fire advanced down the hill, burning one house after another.

The winds blew the smoke eastward, turning the sun red. Here you can see downtown Oakland in the distance, and the black cloud of smoke overhead.

Many people returned to their houses to find only the chimney and foundation still standing. This was once a beautiful house on Skyline. I remember riding past this house before the fire, and admiring it. It was tucked away from the road, behind some great redwood trees. It had an awesome view, encompassing most of the bay area. Now only the empty shell of a house was left.

This was another house on Skyline. It had the driveway and garage on top, with the house below. You can see how the girders folded in the intense heat of the fire.

This is the skeleton of a tree killed by the fire. I found it interesting that, when the tree was cut down, it flipped over, so that the trunk was sticking into the air.

More skeletons of trees along Skyline. This used to be a dense evergreen forest.

A view from Tunnel Road shows a whole hillside charred barren by the flames.

This picture was taken the following spring. The trees still stand as a reminder of the destruction, but the ground once more turned green as the plants returned.