OAKLAND (CBS SF) — An overloaded generator being used to supply power during a PG&E power shutoff sparked a two-alarm fire in the Oakland Hills Tuesday morning, burning two homes and vegetation in an area that was incinerated in the deadly 1991 firestorm.
The fire was reported at 9:47 a.m. on the 6200 block of Crown Ave. near Merriewood Drive just east of Highway 13 on a day the East Bay Hills and other parts of the Bay Area were under a Red Flag Warning because of fire danger.
The Oakland Fire Department said the flames from the homes had spread into adjacent vegetation.
Oakland fire spokesman Michael Hunt said there were no evacuation orders and no one was injured.
Oakland Fire told KPIX 5 it appears the fire was caused by an overloaded generator which exploded. It was being used to supply electricity during the current Public Safety Power Shutoff ordered by PG&E to prevent fires in at-risk areas.
The fire flashed back memories for long-time residents of the deadly and devastating 1991 Oakland Hills Fire which caused widespread destruction in the Broadway Terrace/Montclair neighborhood.
After two nights without power, Tuesday morning began with a soul-shaking scare for residents.
“I look up and I could see flames from this property right here, like sky-high flames and I dropped everything and I started screaming ‘Fire, fire!'” neighbor Katie Kahn told KPIX 5.
Kahn had just wrapped up a work call. Her husband and son had left with the family’s only car to find a usable Wi-Fi signal for a Zoom class.
Neighbors Ruth Clein and Bonnie Glover, still in their pajamas, pulled Katie into their pre-positioned van and fled. “Ruth was outside, came running into me and saying ‘Fire, fire, we gotta go right now,'” Glover told KPIX 5.
“The thing is if the power wasn’t off, everybody up here wouldn’t be running a generator,” Eric Trewick told KPIX 5.
After Tuesday’s close call, neighbors just want a break from Mother Nature. “I really, really want it to rain. I wanna be safe in this neighborhood. I love this neighborhood,” said Ruth Clein.
The Red Flag Warning was in effect for the East Bay Hills until 5 p.m. Tuesday. Across the region, drought conditions, tinder-dry hills, low humidity and gusty winds were creating a formula for a wildfire outbreak.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the vast majority of Bay Area communities were in an area of severe or extreme drought conditions as of Tuesday morning.
The National Weather Service said San Francisco has received just 0.06 of rain since May 18th — a span of 121 days. The longest stretch was 213 days in 1987.