SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the Oakland firestorm, where 25 people were killed and nearly 4,000 homes and apartments were destroyed.

KCBS insider Phil Matier was there to cover the fires, and was astounded at how quickly the community rebuilt.

It began as a Saturday brush fire in a field that was left unattended and high-speed winds kicked up adding fuel. The devastation was “incredible” according to Matier.

“The fire could have been prevented. There are still questions as to how the fire department responded to the initial blaze,” Matier said.

Oakland’s Mayor, Elihu Haris, at the time panicked, Matier said.

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier:

“There was a lot of anger, but rather than call for reforms, which people were talking about, they said ‘No, just get the place rebuilt.’”

Rather than spending time widening roads and making changes for safety, Matier said everyone was given building permits in order to build back as fast as they could.

In fact, the roads haven’t changed, but the houses are bigger and there’s not as much vegetation.

However, fire code improvements to housing have been made to the exteriors and roofing.

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