On the morning of October 20, 1991, towering clouds of black smoke blocked out the sun as “diablo winds” whipped flames hot enough to melt gold throughout the hills above Oakland and Berkeley. By the end of that day, 25 people were dead and more than 3000 homes lay in ashes and charred rubble, little remaining but chimneys and the blackened skeletons of trees. Nearly 30 years later, as California suffers its most widespread wildfire season in living memory, this episode looks back at the inferno that gave us a terrifying glimpse of the future we’re now living through.
Retired East Bay Regional Parks Department firefighter Bill Nichols provides a first-hand account of battling the blaze and the lessons he learned that day that shaped the rest of his career. Risa Nye, author of the memoir “There Was a Fire Here,” discusses how she coped with watching her entire neighborhood burn down, including her home and all her family’s possessions, and explains how she navigated the lengthy recovery process.
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