Addressing Wildfire Safety

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California’s wildfire season is becoming longer and stronger as a result of climate change. Six of the ten most destructive fires in California’s history took place in the last two years. Berkeley is no stranger to wildfires, with two of California’s twenty most destructive fires taking place here. On September 17, 1923, a fire swept southwest from Wildcat Canyon, destroying 584 homes throughout the La Loma Park and Northside neighborhoods, ending its path of destruction at Shattuck Avenue and Hearst Avenue. On October 20, 1991, the Oakland Firestorm decimated the northern Oakland hills, including southeast Berkeley. 25 people lost their lives and 2,843 single-family homes and 437 apartment/condominium units were destroyed in California’s worst fire before 2017. 

After a wet winter created an abundance of vegetation that is now parched, we know 2019 will likely be another significant fire season in California. That is why we are making our biggest investment ever in wildfire safety. In our budget approved at the end of June, we are allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars towards vegetation management and emergency response training. We are also proposing $1.1 million for the development of an outdoor emergency warning system. Earlier this year, I joined Governor Gavin Newsom and other local and regional leaders and firefighters at Tilden Regional Park in announcing the creation of the North Ordina Fuel Break. This will create a 14 mile firebreak between the wildland-urban interface in Berkeley to the west and Orinda to the east. 

This month, the City will be conducting several evacuation drills in the Berkeley hills in the following locations:

August 4th, 9am-10am

North to South: Dwight Way to Alcatraz Avenue

East to West: Telegraph Avenue to Oakland Border

August 11th, 9am-10am

North to South: Contra Costa County Border to Codornices Park

East to West: The Alameda to Wildcat Canyon Road

August 25th, 9am-10am

North to South: Codornices Park to UC Berkeley

East to West: Spruce Street to Contra Costa County Border

If you live in one of these areas and would like to participate in these drills, contact the Office of Emergency Services at with your contact info and address. The Berkeley Fire Department will provide instructions on how to participate in the drill. Please note the evacuation locations that are given for the drills may not be the evacuation point for an actual fire. 

Safety Tips:

Be sure to be in the know when an emergency strikes. Sign up for AC Alert to get notifications via phone, text, and/or email. During an emergency, you can listen to 1610AM, Berkeley’s Emergency Radio Station.  

It is recommended that households have a go-bag they can take during the evacuation. Items should include a flashlight/headlamp, a local map with walking paths, water, snacks, important documents, an emergency blanket, cash, a portable radio & batteries, sturdy shoes and socks, a whistle, and a Change of clothing. When evacuating, remember the five Ps to take with you:

  • People and Pets

  • Prescriptions

  • Papers

  • Personal Needs

  • Priceless Items

Click here for a more extensive checklist.

For more information, the City has a webpage with a comprehensive list of how to prepare for a wildfire and what to do in the event of one. 

The City and the State is working diligently to reduce the threat of wildfires, but the threat can never be eliminated. Taking the necessary steps to prepare is essential in promoting your safety. If you have suggestions on what we can do to better prepare for a wildfire or help mitigate those risks, please send us your thoughts at

Jesse Arreguin