1991 Firestorm Memories | We Lost Our Homes

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We Lost Our Homes by Ned MacKay

Some East Bay Regional Park District employees and at least one relative were among the thousands of people who lost their homes in the Oakland Hills fire of October 19 and 20, 1991. Those known at present include:

Amy Larson, then employed in the Park District’s Public Affairs Department, had moved into her home on Proctor Avenue near Lake Temescal only one week before the fire. She and her neighbors evacuated as the fire advanced.

Amy’s home was destroyed. Nothing was left of hers and other nearby houses except foundations and fireplace chimneys. Visiting the site later to look for any salvageable belongings, Amy and her friends found little left, except a small ceramic owl ornament that had been on the mantelpiece.

Jack Rogers, now retired, a helicopter pilot and lieutenant in the Park District police department, also lost his home. So did Grady Simril, the park district arborist, since deceased.

Sylvia Miller, was living in the Parkwood Apartments at the time, though she was fortunately out of town when the fire occurred. Her son is Paul Miller, the district’s recreation unit manager.

The three-story apartment building burned down completely, collapsing onto itself, so nothing was left of her belongings.
Because he was a member of the Park District Fire Department, Paul was able to get into the area ahead of the general public. He found that the Parkwood’s parking structure had survived the blaze. Inside was his mother’s car, undamaged except for some scorched paint. Paul later drove the car to his home for safekeeping. A few of his mother’s possessions were in the trunk.

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