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.