The conflagration of September 17, 1923, started innocently enough as a small black column of smoke that gently rose over the hills to the east of Berkeley. But then some of North Berkeley's beautiful Arts & Crafts homes began exploding in dramatic red and orange hues; the fire began racing - with alarming speed - first up the hills towards Berkeley, then down the hills towards the bay. Within hours first a couple, then a dozen, then over a hundred of North Berkeley's houses were on fire. Berkeley's emergency services found themselves overwhelmed as hydrant after hydrant was dry, or nearly so. The fire began creating its own weather; Berkeley was in the grips of a firestorm. Fire Chief Sydney Rose gave the order to call for assistance from fire departments all over the Bay Area. Departments from as far away as Richmond, Oakland, Hayward, and San Francisco responded. With their combined efforts the fire was eventually put out, but not before almost 600 homes lay in ruin.