"Before it's too late"
Preventing the next catastrophic wildfire in Berkeley
The Five Fundamentals of Wildfire Prevention
See our updated position paper summarizing the catastrophic wildfire risk that exists in Berkeley, and describing five actions that need to be taken to essentially eliminate this risk.
2023 Year-End President’s Report
BFSC had a number of important successes in 2023 and all the public landowners have made progress toward reducing our wildfire risk. Our president, Henry DeNero, has summarized our accomplishments and the progress of others in his annual year-end report.
Berkeley FireSafe Council Grove Analysis
Map of eucalyptus groves and trees in Northeast Berkeley (including updates of trees removed since 2020):
Map of eucalyptus groves and trees in Southeast Berkeley:
Wide area map of eucalyptus groves in Berkeley, Tilden Park and North Oakland that threaten Berkeley:
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 remains largely unmitigated. Effective 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 vast majority of hazardous fuel and is the most dangerous. Eliminating this risk will require cleaning up the understory of all the 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, non-invasive species. This will be a large task requiring the commitment of all large landowners. 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 3,400 homes. The 1923 fire destroyed 600 homes, a number that would be several times larger today due to increased density. Both fires would have been far worse without favorable shifts in the wind. They could have burned all the way to the Bay.
Our principal focus since 2019 has been fuel reduction, focusing first on the 100+ tons of eucalyptus debris in the understory of 10 groves among the homes in the Berkeley Hills. 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” comprised of 250 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 understory in the lower part of the canyon on both public and private land. We have continued this volunteer-led model, leading 28 events to date involving over 50 residents and over 500 students. We estimate that we have removed 75 tons of highly flammable eucalyptus bark, branches and leaves from the understory of six of the groves, perhaps half of the accumulated fuel. These clean ups have been funded by over $45,000 in community donations and, most recently, by a $15,000 UC Berkeley Chancellor's grant. The funds are used primarily to pay honorariums to the UC Berkeley student service organizations that recruit their members as volunteers.
Two of our leaders have written a position paper summarizing our catastrophic wildfire risk and describing five actions that need to be taken to reduce this risk, and summarizing the status of each of the actions. The five actions are called "The Five Fundamentals of Wildfire Prevention" (Click here to see the paper).
We invite you to join our group and email list to receive fire safety information specific to Berkeley by clicking on this link. We also invite you to make a tax-deductible donation, 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 in Berkeley to the east that threaten Berkeley and North Oakland. Click on the maps for enlarged versions.