As the strike team drove into the Sonoma valley early Monday morning, the glow of fires surrounded them on both sides of Highway 12. Oakland Battalion Chiefs James Bowron and Nicholas Luby headed a team of engines from Oakland, Hayward, Fremont and Alameda County, and they listened to radio traffic describing the rapid spread of fire through the wine country and people needing immediate rescue.

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20 years after the Oakland Hills Fire, city officials and residents reflect on what has changed and what still needs to be done. Photo courtesy of Oakland Fire Department.

On October 19, 1991, the tiny flame that would become the Oakland hills fire was ignited. The ensuring wildfire, which lasted for several days, took 25 lives, consumed over a thousand acres land, and destroyed more than 3,500 homes. On the 20th anniversary of the fire, Oakland North takes a look at some of the changes the city has implemented to try to prepare for the next big wildfire—as well as what still needs to improve.

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