Berkeley FireSafe Council
Focused on preventing the next catastrophic fire
(Berkeley FireSafe Council was formerly known as the Hillside Fire Safety Group)
Before It's Too Late!
Berkeley FireSafe Council (BFSC) is a community not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) organization with the primary mission of preventing the next catastrophic fire in Berkeley. We also support our public officials, advocate for needed public action, inform residents and public officials, and support preparedness and training. We also coordinate with other fire safety groups. We are a member of the California Fire Safe Councils, non-profits throughout the state at the city and county levels dedicated to fire safety. CA Fire Safe Council was formed in 1993 by CAL FIRE. BFSC is part of the Hillside Association of Berkeley (HAB), which was formed over 30 years ago to preserve the unique nature of our community and its interests. BFSC was formerly known as the Hillside Fire Safety Group (HFSG).
Our motto “Before It's Too Late” reflects the fact that, despite significant efforts by public landowners, the threat of a catastrophic fire in Berkeley has not been fully mitigated. Full mitigation will require the removal of all or most of the hazardous fuel in the Berkeley and Oakland hills and in Tilden Park, primarily eucalyptus, which constitutes the majority of hazardous fuel. Eliminating this risk will require cleaning up the understory of eucalyptus groves in Berkeley and Oakland, on the UC Berkeley campus, and in Tilden Park, and then replacing the eucalyptus and other hazardous trees with non-hazardous species. Yet, it can be done, and with less money and more quickly than most believe. We need to remove the fuel that will destroy much of Berkeley, Oakland, and the adjacent cities - before it's too late.
There have been two catastrophic fires in the last 100 years, the 1923 Berkeley Fire and the 1991 Tunnel Fire. Both fires became catastrophic largely by the presence of the eucalyptus trees. The Tunnel Fire killed 25 people and destroyed 3,000 homes. The 1923 fire destroyed 600 homes, a number that would be several times larger today due to increased density. And both fires could have been much worse as they were stopped primarily by shifts in the wind.
Our principal focus since 2021 has been fuel reduction, focusing on many tons of eucalyptus debris under several unkempt groves closest to the residential neighborhoods. In cooperation with Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and with support from the City of Berkeley, we first cleaned up much of the most dangerous location in Berkeley, a small canyon just above Hilgard Avenue that we call “Hidden Canyon” that contains almost 200 Eucalyptus trees. Berkeley Lab hired a private tree contractor to remove low branches and saplings and clean up the ground on its side of the upper canyon, while we organized UC Berkeley student volunteer events to clean up the ground in the lower part of the canyon. This student-led program has continued in 2022 and 2023. To date, there have been 23 such events involving over 50 residents and over 400 students. We estimate that we have removed over 75 tons of highly flammable eucalyptus bark, branches and leaves from the understory of several groves. These clean ups are funded by community donations that are primarily used to pay honorariums to the UC Berkeley student service organizations that recruit their members as volunteers.
We invite you to join our group and email list to receive fire safety information specific to our Berkeley neighborhood area by clicking on this link. We also invite you to make a tax deductible donation using our non-profit status, and to volunteer on one or more of our committees. Information on how to donate can be found here (link) and our leadership team and committees here (link). On the left are maps of the eucalyptus trees and groves inside Northeast Berkeley and the groves to the east of Berkeley and North Oakland. Click on the maps for enlarged versions.
Please let us know if you have any questions by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by leaving a voice message at the BFSC phone line (415) 340-0152