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This week in 1923: Marin and Bay Area Wildfires Burn Thousands of Acres and Homes


The excellent “Marin Fire History” website has a detailed account of the devastating wildfires that burned huge swaths of Marin and the Bay Area the week of September 17, 1923.  The Marin fire, the largest in our recorded history, burned from Novato to Bolinas, destroying homes and threatening whole towns in its path.  The late season fire weather and low fuel moistures, similar to what we are experiencing today, contributed to a fire siege that gripped much of California, burning Berkeley, Marin, El Dorado, Sonoma, Petaluma, Ukiah, and Santa Barbara – in all 18 counties saw major fires.

marin fire headline copy orig“This week we start to tell the story of the massive and devastating fires throughout California during the week of September 17th. Over one thousand homes lost, including 30 out of the 35 in Woodacre, and over 600 in Berkeley. The main contributing factors were the north and northeasterly winds, very low humidity (5% at Noon in Berkeley on the 17th), and high temperatures. It was one of the largest fires in the history of Marin County, where a smoldering fire in Ignacio was kicked up by strong north winds, running over Big Rock Ridge into the Lucas and Nicasio Valleys, over Loma Alta into Woodacre, around Forest Knolls and Lagunitas, and over the Bolinas Ridge to Bolinas. 

Several entire towns were destroyed at the same time elsewhere in California, including in Sonoma County with Boyes Springs, and in El Dorado in El Dorado County. Petaluma and Ukiah were surrounded by fire, large fires in Trinity County, Placer County, Fresno County, Santa Barbara County, and more. We will be adding to this page over time with more research. For now read a detailed account of the Marin fire, and watch old films taken of the Berkeley conflagration. We have also posted a review of the fire weather that was written by a local meteorologist a few weeks after the fires.”

Read more at Marin Fire History

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