1923 Berkeley Fire - Berkeley, CA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member DougK
N 37° 52.426 W 122° 15.937
10S E 564587 N 4192063
Quick Description: In 1923 a fire which began in Wildcat Canyon swept over the ridge and burned hundreds homes near the UC Berkeley campus.
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 4/14/2013 6:30:14 PM
Waymark Code: WMGW4Y
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member saopaulo1
Views: 6

Long Description:
Wikipedia summarizes the Berkeley fire of 1923:

The 1923 Berkeley Fire was a conflagration which consumed some 640 structures, including 584 homes in the densely-built neighborhoods north of the campus of the University of California in Berkeley, California on September 17, 1923.

Although the exact cause was never determined, the fire began in the undeveloped chaparral and grasslands of Wildcat Canyon, just east of the ridgeline of the Berkeley Hills, and was propelled over the ridge and southwestward just south of Codornices Creek by a strong, gusty, and intensely dry northeasterly wind. The fire quickly blew up as it swept through the La Loma Park and Northside neighborhoods of Berkeley, overwhelming the capabilities of the Berkeley Fire Department to stop it. A number of UC students fought the advance of the fire as it approached the north edge of the University of California campus at Hearst Avenue. The other edge of the fire was fought by firefighters as it advanced on downtown Berkeley along the east side of Shattuck Avenue north of University Avenue. Firefighters were rushed in from neighboring Oakland while San Francisco sent firefighters by ferry across the bay. The fire was halted when the gusty northeast wind was suddenly stopped by the cool, humid afternoon seabreeze.

Across from the University of California at Berkeley is a plaque on an apartment building that reads:

On the morning of September 17, 1923, a grass fire spread from Wildcat Canyon over the hills into Berkeley. Driven by hot, dry winds, the fire spread rapidly across the northeast districts of the city, burning as far south and west as this downtown block.

In just a few hours, nearly 600 homes and dozens of entire blocks burned north of the University of California campus and east of Shattuck Avenue. Downwind, a rain of blowing embers started small fires and endangered buildings throughout the business district and in central, west and south Berkeley.

The Berkeley Fire Department and fire engine companies from other sites - including some rushed over from San Francisco on a ferry boat - fought to save the city. Finally in late afternoon when the wind died down, they were able to contain the fire. East of developed parts of the city and the University campus, the fire continued to burn through the dry hills and canyons well into the night.

Professional firefighters were assisted by many volunteers, including hundreds of University of California students. Additional hundreds helped to evacuate people, save belongings, and guard the burned areas after the fire. Although no lives were lost, thousands of Berkeley residents were left homeless, including more than 1,000 - about 10% - of all University students and nearly one in four faculty families.

Across Oxford Street from this site, the northwest corner of the University of California campus was at a time a large field used for athletics and military drill practice. The field became a gathering place for refugees and salvaged belongings. Sites including Stephens Union (later Stephens Hall) on the campus, Berkeley's City Hall, Washington School, and the National Guard Armory on Addison Street were turned into relief centers and temporary shelters.

Type of Structure: Private Building

Fire Date: 9/17/1923

Structure status: Plaque

Cause of Fire:

Documentation of the fire: [Web Link]

Other: Not listed

Construction Date: Not listed

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