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REMEMBERING THE FIRESTORM: 25 YEARS LATER

In 1991 the then-worst urban fire in American history swept out of the hills behind Berkeley, destroying in one afternoon more than 3,000 homes and killing dozens. The Firestorm only grazed Berkeley—burning several blocks of homes in the southeast corner of the city—but still had a strong impact on our community. 

Join us Sunday, October 2, at 1:00 PM for the opening of a one-month-long “pop-up” exhibit recalling the Firestorm. 

The opening program will include a talk by Berkeley native and retired Berkeley Fire Chief Debra Pryor. As a captain of the Berkeley Fire Department, she was on the fire line that day. 

The exhibit features an evocative array of black and white photographs of the burned area soon after the Firestorm. The photographer, Harold Adler, will be on hand to discuss how he took the photographs and his own recollections of the Firestorm. 

The 1991 Firestorm was not the first natural disaster to threaten urban Berkeley.  Major wildfires in the Berkeley Hills go back to 1906 at least.  So the exhibit will also include some materials on other fires, including the 1923 Berkeley Fire that destroyed more than 600 homes, and the “forgotten fire” of 1937, which burned much of the brush- and grass-covered hills of North Oakland that would burn again in 1991. 

The exhibit will be up for just one month—October 2 through Saturday, November 5. 

Exhibit curated by Phyllis Gale and Steven Finacom for the Berkeley Historical Society.


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