FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Berkeley fire of 1923

The summer of 1923 was hot and rainless, leaving the hills explosively dry.

On Sept. 17 high winds out of the north blew smoke across a small grass fire in Wildcat Canyon and quickly carried it over the ridge down into North Berkeley.

By 2 p.m. the fire had moved with astounding speed.

The fire jumped from the back woods of Wildcat Canyon to the city limits of Berkeley.

Berkeley firefighters were overmatched from the beginning. Still it was man against nature and nature was winning.

People were also taking matters into their own hands to defend their homes as best they could. They were trying to stop the inevitable – trying to hold off the great fire with garden hoses and no water.

By about 4:30 p.m. the winds began to die down and the hot, dry air grew humid.

The fire burned 60 city blocks and almost 600 buildings burned to the ground.

While the dust settled and the ashes cooled - chimneys still stood.

No one died in the blaze.

The fire burned down to the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Hearst.

Out of fuel and no longer driven by the wind, the fire stopped in its tracks.

Fire investigators learned hikers smoking cigarettes on a trail had accidentally started the fire.