2 Oakland hills homes burned after overloaded generator sparks explosion, fire

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Fire Department is saying an overloaded generator running outside a home due to the PG&E PSPS appears to be the cause of a fire in the Oakland hills Tuesday morning.

It was terrifying for those in Montclair as a fire engulfed several homes. Everyone immediately thought of the 1991 firestorm that burned down thousands of homes in this same region. This time fire crews were in the right place at the right time.

Black smoke rising from the Oakland Hills at 9:40 a.m. Tuesday morning sent an ominous wave of panic over the East Bay.

Oakland Fire says what ignited this blaze was a gasoline generator that was hooked up because the power had been cut off by PG&E due to the Red Flag Warning.

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Neighbor Renford Edwards said, "I heard a huge explosion. I heard one of the neighbors saying, 'It's the generator that exploded.' And I see fire all over the place and started shaking and everybody starts panicking and running all over the place."

The family that lives next door to the burning home escaped.

Eric Trawick said "Then there was a second explosion and the fire went across the street into the other people's yard and the whole house went up in smoke and flames and the cars exploded after that. I believe two cars."

There were a total of four explosions as the fire tore through two homes and a detached garage, flames running up a power pole, embers flying everywhere in the wild wind, catching a nearby fence on fire.

Oakland fire made an aggressive attack on the fire fearing it could spread quickly.

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A Mill Valley restaurant owner is sharing a cautionary tale about the danger of backup generators, which so many businesses and home owners are using during PG&E's public safety power shutoffs.

Michael Hunt with the Oakland Fire Department said, "We were also fortunate to have pre-positioned strike teams in the area from Alameda county, Fremont and Hayward fire so they were nearby and able to respond as well. You know we have strike teams around the region now with a red flag conditions."

By 11:30 a.m. the flames were out. No injuries. No formal evacuations in this neighborhood above Highway 13 but terrified Montclair residents like Judy Ubsdell, who lived through the '91 firestorm were ready.

She said, "I have my to go bag. I grabbed my important papers and back up for my PC. We were ready to pull out."

Narrow streets filled with parked cars made it difficult for engines to navigate. Eight people were displaced.

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A Red Flag Warning is in effect through 5 p.m. Tuesday for much of the East Bay amid high winds.

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A fire broke out Tuesday morning in Oakland's Montclair neighborhood. A nearby resident reported hearing a loud explosion around 9:45 a.m.

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