A scene from the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Fire Department.

The 1991 wildfire, which shot out of control on October 20 and lasted almost 72 hours, was so large and fast-moving that it challenged the capacity of Northern California’s fire departments and wreaked havoc on the hills community. OaklandNorth.net remembers the fire and examines what has changed in the past 20 years.

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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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A fire engine at the Oakland Hills fire station, which opened its doors to reporters for a reenactment of the 1991 fire.

The firefighters put on their headphones, fastened their seatbelts, turned on their lights and sirens, and peeled out of the garage towards the narrow, steep road. With notepads and video cameras in tow, reporters were getting a feel for what it was like to ride in a fire truck during the massive fire that devastated the Oakland Hills 20 years ago.

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