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Gateway Emergency Preparedness Center.

Firestorm House and Disasters To Come

Field review by the editors.

Oakland, California

A skeletal building, resembling a fire-gutted single-family home, perches on a slope in Oakland-Berkeley hills east of San Francisco. Houses like this were consumed in the Oakland Firestorm in 1991. It's a memorial to the horrible "Tunnel Fire" and a place to imagine other disasters.

Towards the end of California's dry season, wildfires are commonplace. The Oakland Firestorm was fiercely uncommon, tearing through an urban area after 5 years of drought. The fire originated near the Caldecott Tunnel on October 19, 1991, part of another fire that hadn't been totally extinguished, fed by 65+ mph winds that quickly spread the conflagration into neighborhoods and apartment complexes. Firefighters from 50 departments across the region fought the blaze, some hampered by lack of water or even incompatible hose connections.

View towards the bay.

The firestorm continued through October 20, and was finally contained. It killed 25 people and destroyed thousands of homes and apartments, with estimated losses at over $1.5 billion.

The Gateway Emergency Preparedness Exhibit Center was dedicated in 2003, with granite boulders and fire-resistant landscaped garden around the home-like structure. With no walls, the unstaffed "house" is an observation platform offering views of distant San Francisco and the surrounding hills.

Signs provide the chronology of the fire and its aftermath, as well as tips to protect your home, and how to landscape for the next inferno. Other signs tout "Earthquakes: An Ever-present Risk" and imminent disaster scenarios. Lots of helpful advice to preserve life and property. But next time the hills ignite, this pavilion is not the place to seek shelter.

Firestorm House and Disasters To Come

Gateway Garden and Pavilion

Tunnel Rd, Oakland, CA
Gateway Garden and Pavilion. North of Hwy 24, north onto Hwy 13, first right onto Tunnel Rd go right, will be on left. Hiller Highlands
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