BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) — Even before a wildfire ignites, Berkeley Hills residents should leave their homes during Extreme Fire Weather periods, city officials said Friday.

Extreme Fire Weather periods are defined by the Berkeley Fire Department as having extremely low humidity and high winds. Residents living on hillside fire zones are advised to make plans to stay elsewhere during these risky periods, which usually only occur once or twice a year.

The hot and dry conditions under Extreme Fire Weather allow flames to easily ignite and rapidly spread, posing particular risk to those in Berkeley Fire Zones 2 and 3, where narrow neighborhood streets pose evacuation challenges, city officials said.

“The narrow, winding street network in the Berkeley hills — combined with the rapid fire spread likely in these conditions — means that once a fire ignites, evacuating in a car won’t be an option for everyone,” city officials wrote.

In addition, residents should prepare for wildfires by learning key fire weather terms, signing up for emergency notifications, and looking up their evacuation zone.

The devastating 1991 Oakland/Berkeley hills fire ignited when conditions were within Berkeley’s Extreme Fire Weather thresholds. Since then, California’s five largest wildfires in history all occurred in the last five years.

“With each wildfire, we learn more about how our response must adapt. One key lesson is that community members and emergency responders must take action based on weather conditions rather than waiting for a fire to ignite. A wildfire driven by hot, dry Diablo winds can spread so quickly that even those who have taken all the traditional steps to prepare may not have time to evacuate safely after a fire starts. In these extreme wind-driven fires, there may not be time for traditional notifications for evacuation advisories and warnings,” city officials wrote.

The City of Berkeley is also urging residents to sign up for the following alert systems:

  • Know your Zonehaven evacuation zone so you can quickly identify it in emergency alerts. Bookmark the site on your computer and phone to find real-time updates during a fire. Write down your zone on your fridge.
  • Sign up at to receive emergency alerts from Berkeley and Alameda County.