'Memory that doesn't go away': Flashbacks of deadly Oakland Hills fire surface entering weekend of 'high' fire danger

Luz Pena Image
Saturday, September 26, 2020
Community reflects on deadly Oakland Hills fire amid Red Flag Warning
The 29th anniversary of the Oakland Hills fire that killed 25 people is approaching. Firefighters and residents share haunting memories, and fears, as we enter another weekend of potentially high fire danger.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Another heat wave is projected to hit the Bay Area this weekend. Fire stations across the East Bay are preparing for the peak of the fire season and are increasing staffing with more firefighters on duty for even more fire protection.

"Well I'm actually very concerned, of course," said Berkeley Resident, Marilyn Palla-Droke.

RELATED: Here's where fire danger is highest in the Bay Area this weekend

It's been close to 29 years since the 1991 Oakland Hills fire broke out in mid-October and killed 25 people.

"During the Oakland Hills fire, we were here with our family that weekend. We were right here," described Palla-Droke.

Now, when Marilyn Palla Droke hears we're entering a Red Flag Warning this weekend, flash backs of her neighborhood in flames resurface.

"It's a memory that doesn't go away. I'm very clear about that and knowing so many people that lost their lives then and it's tragic. It's now tragic again," said Palla-Droke.

East Bay firefighters know weather conditions are not in their favor this weekend, and the similarities to 1991 are there.

HEAT WAVE: Bay Area heat wave could bring 107-degree high temperatures

It's about to be hot, hot, hot! See meteorologist Drew Tuma's full forecast to get a sense of just how hot.

"You can see Highway 24 and 13th here. The same areas that we are concerned about to this day," described James Bowron, Battalion Chief Oakland fire department.

Fast forward to 2020, a map at Station 7 in Oakland shows the current problematic areas.

"You have 24 and our hills area that we like to think starts around engine 7 off Claremont, and kind of expands all down this district all the way down to 106 avenue down past the Oakland Zoo," described Bowron.

Many firefighters are coming out of battling the SCU Lightning Complex and are now fully staffing their stations to respond to any potential fires.

"On the East side of Fremont we have a lot of hills. That's our high hazard zone and we have a lot residents there so that's one of the areas. Specially this weekend with there being an Easter wind or a Diablo wind," said Kyle Adams, Battalion Chief for the Fremont Fire Department.

Throughout the region firefighters are asking the public to do their part and prevent fires during this upcoming heat wave.

"It's not a good time to get out and mow your lawn and weed waking and anything that can cause a spark or a possible ignition source," said Adams.