VIDEO/PHOTOS: A century ago this Sunday, a hot, dry wind — the same northeasterly that can still imperil the city today — bore fire on its back over the northern Berkeley Hills, destroying in its wake nearly 600 residential buildings, causing nearly $10 million in damage and leaving nearly 4,000 residents and UC Berkeley students homeless.
Miraculously the fire claimed no lives in Berkeley, but scores were burned, bloodied or worse while running from or trying to fight the flames. For decades, until the lethal Tunnel Fire of 1991, it stood to many as the city’s worst natural disaster since its incorporation.
Huge fires spring up in the wildland east of the city every couple of decades or so. An East Bay Regional Parks District map of fire areas — many overlaying each other — shows large burns in and around Berkeley in 1905, 1923, 1937, 1946, 1970 and 1991.