Page One

Fire memories still burn

By Lena Warmack Daily Planet Correspondent
Monday October 22, 2001

It was a solemn Sunday morning at the Rockridge BART Station where community members and elected city officials came together to honor the lives lost in the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm and the firefighters who fought bravely. 

“You will always remember what you were doing,” said Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, remembering the day of the fire. “We’ve come a long way.” 

At the “Phoenix: Looking Back, Moving Forward” 10th Anniversary Oakland/Berkeley Firestorm event, Dean reflected on the tragedy, marked as one of the worst urban-wildland fires in U.S. history. The fire, Dean said, claimed the lives of 25 people, injured 150 residents and fire fighters, and left more than 5,000 homeless. Dean spoke in front of the Fire Storm Community Mural Project made out of decorated tiles dedicated to the fire’s survivors. The mural lines the station’s walls on College Avenue. 

“Many people still have vivid memories and impressions of the fire,” said Berkeley Fire Chief Reginald Garcia. “As a community we have come together. We have survived.” 

Jan Marsh rebuilt her Oakland home after the fire but moved to a Berkeley apartment four years ago because she said the memories were too painful.  

“I lost everything,” Marsh said. 

Marsh recalls being surrounded by flames while she and husband and cat escaped but said an elderly woman who lived across the street did not make it. She holds the city of Oakland partly responsible. 

“I think the city of Oakland was totally unprepared and I feel that they let us down and totally got away with it,” Marsh said.