It’s almost October 20th, 2011 and that will mark 20 years since the huge Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm of 1991. Will Wright was one of many whom lost their possessions, but in Wright’s case, was much more thankful that everyone else was safe (much like any sane person would be). He shares with us what it was like to be a part of this disaster:
“The wind was coming from the east which was unusual, and there was a lot of smoke,” he says. “I called 911 and they said everything was under control.” Wright went to shave and shower but the smoke was increasing at such a rate he was prompted to phone 911 again. “It was happening so fast and it was out of control,” he says.
His neighbors had left their two-year old child with grandparents and Wright knew they didn’t have a car. He had to persuade them to leave, but, eventually, they agreed to come with him and his wife. After Wright had grabbed some pictures, the group jumped in his car and headed down the hill. At this point, the fire was surging forth at such speed they were driving through a corridor of flames.
“We drove down Charing Cross Road which is where all the people died. We were about five minutes ahead when we got there,” he says. “Not once did we see a police officer or fire fighter.”
About a week later, Wright returned in a police car to see what was left of his home. “There were chimneys and Weber grills — one car was just a big puddle of melted aluminum,” he says.
Wright discovered that the loss of his possessions did not overly affect him. “The interesting part was to find out that I wasn’t really that attached to much,” he says. “I started assessing my material needs: a toothbrush, underwear, a car, a house… I was surprised how I didn’t miss stuff. The fact we got out and none of our family was hurt seemed so much more important.”