Brush fire in Oakland Hills contained


It is an area that was scorched very badly 17 years ago by the deadly 1991 Oakland firestorm. On Thursday, fire crews tackled this fire hard right away.

This area was the heart of the deadly fire in 1991. It was a firestorm that took several lives, but thanks to the response by several agencies, the outcome was much different.

It was a fire that quickly went to three alarms and roared up a steep hillside in the Oakland Hills, burning dangerously close to several homes, licking at the decks of six condos on Charing Cross Road in Hiller Highlands.

At one point, several of those decks began to burn before a lone firefighter on the ground was able to hook up a hose and fight back. Some residents did what they could with garden hoses.

At the same time, helicopters from East Bay Regional Parks and CALFIRE doused the flames from above, with water plucked from nearby Lake Temescal.

Crews knocked down the fire before it did any significant damage, although firefighters did have to force open several unoccupied homes, including that of Sam Robinson.

"They had to break the door just to get inside, just to make sure they could get to the decks."

Robinson's home burned to the ground in the 1991 Oakland firestorm.

"Material things, you can get them back again, but the family and your loved ones; those are the ones we got away with and we're fine. Here this happens again and we're still together."

Oakland fire officials say today's conditions weren't nearly as bad as that day 17 years ago.

"Fortunately, the conditions are a little different. It is a red flag day, it's warm, the breeze is picking up as you can see now, but at the time the fire originated, we didn't have much wind, which was a huge blessing," says Deputy Chief Jim Edmonds of the Oakland Fire Department.

Many who live here today survived the fire of 1991.

"I think the main lesson now is to stay on it. That's what happened in the big firestorm in 1991. The fire was suppressed, but then it kicked up and started again," says Bob Sieben of the Hiller Safety Committee.

Just to make sure that does not happen again, there are currently several Oakland fire trucks lined up against Cheery Cross Road and will remain here until the following morning. Still though, the cause of the fire is under investigation.

>> View Google map of this area

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