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Quick response limited damage in Oakland fire

Bay City News
Monday October 23, 2000

OAKLAND – Oakland Fire Department Chief Gerald Simon credited hard lessons learned in the 1991 East Bay hills wild fire for today's quick and effective response to new fire threats. 

Speaking at a news conference at the department this evening, Simon said by 10:30 a.m. reports from residents of branches blown into wires by the wind prompted officials to open the city's emergency operations center. 

By 11:05 a.m he said the center was fully operational and ready to handle a report nine minutes later of a fire on Wisconsin Street at 11:14 a.m. 

Soon after, at 11:32 a.m., he said a second fire was reported in the Oakland hills, near Claremont Avenue and Harbord Drive, that charred 10 acres of land. 

But no structures were damaged today, the chief said, and no one was injured. 

Simon said that from the city of Oakland alone, 150 people were on the scene dealing with the fires.  

He also praised mutual assistance teams, which he said were alerted early on that their aid could be needed because of lessons learned in the October 21, 1991 fire, in which 25 people died and 3,000 homes were destroyed in Oakland  

and Berkeley. 

Today's story could have ended far worse, because similar dry, windy conditions held the potential for another “disaster-type event,” the chief said. 

Simon said that at one point the fire was moving up a slope and, if it had jumped a small fire break or embers had blown across, could have reached within 35 feet of striking distance to homes. 

Crews will remain on duty all night to ensure that the fire does not flare up again. 

Extra staff members are being called in, in addition to some mutual aid that is being retained. 

The 1991 fire was believed to be a rekindling of a fire from the previous day that had not been thoroughly extinguished. 

Simon said firefighters will continue to monitor the area until there is a significant decrease in wind activity. Helicopters will be used for monitoring the area. 

Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb said the forestry division had been deferring maintenance on trees for a number of years, and the city will need to address that area. He said more resources will be put into forestry and vegetation maintenance.