Fire memorials


The Gateway Emergency Exhibit Center sits at a weird spot near the Hayward fault overlooking Route 24, an H-shaped intersection where Hiller Drive and Caldecott Lane come in from diagonally opposite ends and butt against the crossbar and Tunnel Road comes in opposite Caldecott, jogs across the crossbar and takes up where Hiller leaves off. It’s hard to find and it has no shelter, being constructed to resemble a fire-ravaged skeleton-slash-framework of a new building. But as you sit there and look at the information exhibits, every place you can see was wiped out in the October 1991 Hills fire. The exhibits focus on the fire, but there are some plaques that mention big earthquakes. The Big One will surely cause hundreds of fires as power lines fall, gas pipes break and vehicles crash or are crushed.

There are other memorials to the fire. Go west on Tunnel Road to the next light, and to your right is the Fire Memorial Garden, a bit of land that grows lusher each year. But go anywhere else in the fire zone, and if you keep your eyes open you’ll spot scenes like this:


Even after 16 years, there are empty lots. One of them is already shown here in the Ocean View knocker post. Each year a few more of them change hands, and someone builds anew. When the Berkeley Hills burned in 1923, the same thing must have happened. As far as I know, there are no empty lots left over from that fire, so some day the last of 1991’s inadvertent memorials will disappear too.

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