Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oakland Firestorm anniversary

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Oakland Firestorm that destroyed more than 3000 houses and took 25 lives.  This memorial stands near the Caldecott Tunnel where the fire jumped 8 lanes of highway to continue on its devastating path.  As the fire burned down the hill our neighborhood had to evacuate.  My strongest memory is standing at the bottom of our street watching eucalyptus trees at the top of the cemetery canyon explode from the intense heat.  Ash rained down all around us.  It wasn't until the next day we learned that our homes were still standing thanks to a shift in the direction of the winds and the grueling work of fire fighters.  I know many people who were not as lucky.  The local paper reports that those who have moved into the fire zone since the fire have a hard time understanding why they have to engage in such pesky practices like clearing brush from around their house.  They truly do not understand the sense of urgency for preparedness that those who went through the fire have.

Among many commemorative activities, the Oakland Museum has mounted an exhibit by photographer Richard Misrach who documented the fire's aftermath.  He has not published these large format photos until now.  They are a vivid reminder and an education for us all.


19 comments:

  1. I still remember that day as if it were yesterday and these photos bring back those horrific scenes we were all seeing on the news. I remember watching a 49er game and seeing plumes of smoke hover over the stadium. Sheer devastation. And yes, just like with EQ preparedness, we all need to be prepared for fire dangers.

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  2. A disaster I would not want to experience. I always feel emotional around memorials.

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  3. Wow! That second photo really blows my mind. I like the memorial. It is a reminder of the loss, but in a calm way. Thanks for bringing this to light. I hadn't heard of this disaster before.

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  4. It doesn't seem 20 years ago. No one can really imagine the fear, horror and helplessness of a wildfire unless they experience it as you did. Nice post.

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  5. I read about this.. I can't believe it was that long ago.

    To answer your questions about my little town and the buildings..The Library was built in 1909 and the Post Office in 1914.. only the two town swing bridges were built during Queen Victorias' reign and were the first electronic swing bridges built in the UK. Salt was mined below the town and subsidece destroyed many buildings.. the new ones were built of wood so they could be jacked up if they sank or even moved as happened in a few cases.. I did a post months ago if you are interested it's at this url http://rambleswithacamera.blogspot.com/2011/02/feral-pigeonsattempts-to-protect.html

    I may repost it in a couple of days...

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  6. I guess we all face threats from nature, but fire is among the scariest. Glad your house and you survived. The memorial seems quite appropriate.

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  7. Hopefully something like this will not happen again for a long long time.

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  8. yes, survivors know what this can mean-


    Aloha from Waikiki;

    Comfort Spiral



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  9. Great picture, Brings back the unbelievable eeriness of that time, when you drove down a street to find that a house might have burned down but its mailbox was perfectly intact.

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  10. A very bleak time. Thanks for telling your story about the fire so near to your home. I am grateful that you got to go back to your place and see it standing. Your photos are so descriptive, and show what many forget about. This was a brilliant post, thanks.

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  11. A strong and moving post. Making a memorial to something like this is difficult, but in this case they seem to have made it work. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I can not imagine such horror. The newbes should take the advice of those around them.
    Even here in south Florida we have huge brush fires started by lightning strikes.

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  13. Glad to know you were one of the lucky ones. It was an eerie sight, and and it stayed that way for so very long, seared in all our memories. Fires and earthquakes, and we still choose to live here. Hmmmm. Have a great weekend.

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  14. «Louis» was living in Albany at the time. His apartment had a view of the hills. Even from that distance, the heat from the fire could be felt. He was in church at St.Mark's Lutheran, San Francisco, when the fire broke out that Sunday morning. The sky had turned black from the smoke, and the stained glass windows facing east in the church suddenly weren't letting in much light. Everyone in the service knew something was seriously wrong.

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  15. The memorial looks lovely! What a contrast to the pic below - heartbreaking.

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  16. It's good for people to see what happened 20 years ago. I hope they understand that it really could happen again...so clean up the brush!

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  17. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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  18. Thanks for this most important post. Isn't it amazing how people tend to forget (well, especially those who haven't actually lived through a fire). The photo reminds me of a few I took after a bush fire near where I used to live in NSW, Australia.
    I'm glad your house was left standing...

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