Memorial re-dedicated 20 years after Oakland Hills fire

Berkeley resident Jim Beatty stands hopelessly with a garden hose as homes burn out of control in the Berkeley and Oakland hills area on Sunday, Oct. 20, 1991 in Berkeley, California. A wind-driven fire roared through an upscale residential area in the hills above Oakland on Sunday, engulfing hundreds of homes and killing five people, authorities said. (AP Photo/Kevin Rice)

October 20, 2011 8:47:03 PM PDT
Oakland city leaders, firefighters and elementary school students gathered with survivors of the 1991 East Bay Hills Fire this morning in a memorial garden created to honor lives lost in the disaster and to serve as a symbol of community strength.

Mayor Jean Quan and interim Fire Chief Mark Hoffmann led a news conference at the hillside garden near Hiller Drive and Tunnel Road in Oakland to remember the 25 people killed in the fire and to remind residents of their role in preventing and preparing for future wildfires.

"This is a memorial where we honor those whose lives were lost in the fire, and it's a reminder so we continue to be vigilant about fire safety," Hoffman said. "I guarantee this area is going to have another fire, and we need to make sure we're prepared for it."

Hoffman said that in response to the disaster, Oakland's fire department has improved its interagency communications and has trained extensively to help prevent another disaster like the 1991 inferno, which consumed more than 3,000 homes.

However, he stressed that residents must also do their part to help mitigate fire risks.