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Grizzly Peak fire prompting UC Berkeley evacuation contained

Alameda fire department says blaze now contained but still burning

A fire broke out on Grizzly Peak, northeast of the UC Berkeley campus, early Wednesday afternoon, leading to the evacuation of nearby university buildings and a dramatic overnight scene as hundreds of firefighters worked tirelessly to keep the inferno from spreading.

The five-alarm burn encompassed 20 acres at its largest, although come Thursday morning KTVU reported that it was half contained, up from the 20 percent that the Alameda County Fire Department reported on Twitter the previous evening.

The department also said via Twitter that Grizzly Peak Boulevard would stay closed between Centennial Drive in Berkeley and South Park Drive in Contra Costa County until at least Thursday evening as fire crews keep working.

UC Berkeley ordered the Lawrence Hall of Science, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, and the Space Sciences Laboratory evacuated around 3 p.m. on Wednesday, says the LA Times. It was a voluntary evacuation, engaged as a precaution rather than because of immediate danger.

By early Thursday, Berkeleyside reported that a fire engineer at a press conference near the origin point of the burn said that the fire was still going but “had not grown in size since 9 p.m.”

Fire crews will continue working on “hot spots” throughout the day. There’s still no word on the cause.

It was just over 25 years ago that a 1991 fire in the Oakland hills—which also began near Grizzly Peak Boulevard, not far from the location of the present conflagration—burned over 1,500 acres, killed 25 people, and destroyed more than 3,000 homes in what Oakland Fire Captain Donald Parker called at the time “the worst fire involving loss of life and property since the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.”

While the flame-up Wednesday and Thursday this week might recall some bad memories for longtime East Bay residents, it appears blessedly unlikely to be a repeat of the “firestorm” decades ago.