Fire again devastates Jackson, who loses home in Oakland inferno

October 23, 1991|By John Strege | John Strege,Orange County Register

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Word came to him on Monday in a hotel room a continent away, and though he had braced himself for the worst, Reggie Jackson still was not prepared.

Jackson's home in the Oakland hills was among those destroyed in the most destructive fire in state history. He was preparing to move, he said, and he had spent the previous several months consolidating his belongings.

"I was devastated, absolutely devastated," Jackson said. "I was in the process of getting everything gathered for the move. My baseball memorabilia, my art collection, my gun collection, my bronze collection."

Jackson was at the White House on Sunday, doing promotional work for an Operation Desert Storm fund-raiser, when the fire began. He was in New Jersey on business on Monday when he learned that his house was among those lost.

He arrived in Oakland early Tuesday morning and was incapable of recognizing an area in which he has lived since the early '70s.

"Everything in my neighborhood is destroyed and I don't mean partially destroyed," Jackson said. "It was absolute devastation.

"I heard on the radio 2,393 structures were destroyed. To me, who'd it miss? It's not like it just got Reggie. It got everything. Hey, man, it's like if you hold a paper airplane and burn it and then burn it at the other end to make sure it's burnt. The side of the hill is black as night. There ain't nothin'. I can't describe it."

Jackson also has homes in Newport Beach and Carmel, though his home in the Oakland hills was his primary residence.

This was the third time that a property owned by Jackson has been leveled by fire. The same house burned down in 1976, and his automobile warehouse in Oakland was lost to fire several years ago.

He had already counted his blessings, among them that his invalid mother was safe. The fire missed by several blocks the building in which she resides.

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