I chose to do my case study on the Oakland wildfire of 1991. It all began because a brush fire started out in the hills of Oakland. Oakland is a pretty big city with many well known companies such as Kaiser Permanente and Pandora radio. Most of the people that live there are very well educated and earn about $61,000 per year on average. The city is located in northern California and is known for wildfires especially in the fall. During the fall, temperatures often average around 104 degrees Fahrenheit with little to no precipitation.
In this wildfire in particular, the fire started off very small and the firefighters were able to contain it very fast and they had thought they put out the flames all the way. Unfortunately the firefighters went home because they thought the fire had been put out enough and they could no longer see since the sun went down. The next morning there were reports that the fire had once again began but took off so fast that the firefighters couldn’t regain control of the wildfire. Because the fire from the day before left a few embers, it cause the pine needles on the trees to heat up and fall to the ground. The pine needles then sparked the fire up once again but this time the hot, dry winds propelled the fire forward. It is reported that during the Oakland wildfire in the hills, houses completely fell to the ground and were overwhelmed with flames in less than 10 minutes. The houses in 1991 were built with mostly wooden frames and had wooden shingles on the roof so the homes were acting practically as fire starters for an already intense wildfire. There are locations during that fire that reached up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally around the evening time, firefighters and police officers were able to secure a perimeter, meanwhile 10,000 people were evacuated from the city and 1,000 homes were destroyed. The fire caused more than 1.5 million dollars in damages and was recorded as the worst fire in northern California when comparing lives lost and property damaged.
Many things changed about this city after the fire swept through in 1991. Laws and regulations were created so that homes had to be built to with stand future wildfires or at least not catch on fire quite as easily. There were also more regulations set up to removes non native vegetation and the park service now goes through and removes many of the young Eucalyptus trees because those were said to have pushed the fire forward even more. There were some issues during the fire that also changed the supplies of firefighters. One problem the firefighters faced during the wildfire was that because of the hills and narrow streets, radio communication didn’t always work so they had a hard time communicating with other people. They also weren’t prepared enough to tackle a wildfire rather than a regular fire. There was one more issue the firefighters faced which was the size of the fire hydrants. Some of the hydrants weren’t standard size so people and firefighters couldn’t always connect to the hydrants, which made it more challenging to access water to put the fire out. More non profit organizations also sprang to the ground in hopes to educate people better about wildfires and what to do if one starts near them.
Overall there have been a lot of changes made in this city because the likely hood of wildfires in that area is so common. there were 4 prominent wildfires in Oakland alone throughout the 20th century. Since the Oakland fire of 1991, there have been a few minor fires but all were put out almost immediately and response times were much quicker.