On June 15, Alameda will be the latest Bay Area county to officially connect to a new wildfire evacuation system called Zonehaven. That’s particularly good news to the city of Berkeley which has a long history of wildfire disasters.
In 1923, someone smoking a cigarette started a fire in a neighborhood north of UC Berkeley that wiped out a three mile, 50-block area in just two hours time. It stood as the city’s worst disaster until 1991, when the Oakland/Berkeley Hills Fire destroyed 3,000 homes and became the most destructive in California history.
A memorial garden overlooks Highway 24 to commemorate the fire. It contains a plaque listing reasons for the fire’s destructiveness, including “lack of coordination among firefighting entities.”
“I do remember a lot of conversation around first responders not being able to communicate. And that was a large portion of the delay in the evacuation,” said Deputy Tya Modeste, Alameda Sheriff’s spokesperson.