By Cindy Devone-Pacheco
Published Sunday, October 21, 2012
Five years ago today, the Witch Creek Fire, the largest of several wildfires that broke out in the fall of 2007 in Southern California, ignited at 1100 HRS in San Diego County. This series of wildfires, dubbed by the media as the 2007 Firestorm, caused approximately 1 million people to evacuate their homes, the largest evacuation in California’s history, and the largest peacetime movement of Americans since the Civil War.1 By the time the fire was brought under control, two people had lost their lives and 39 firefighters were injured.
More on the 2007 Southern California Firestorm
- Military Aircraft Aid in SoCal WUI Fires
- Lessons Learned from San Diego County's 2003 & 2007 Firestorms
- NIST Deployment for Post-Fire Data
Starting at Witch Creek Canyon near Santa Ysabel, Calif., the Witch Creek Fire quickly spread west through San Diego County with the help of extreme Santa Ana winds. Jumping major state highways, the Witch Creek Fire made it all the way to the coast (approximately 50 miles from the ignition point), forcing the evacuation of many coastal communities, as well as the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation.
As the firestorm continued to rage, thousands of people crowded evacuation sites such as Qualcomm Stadium and the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Major interstates and roads were closed, Amtrak service was halted, and severe smoke conditions caused many businesses to close.
Ultimately, the Witch Creek Fire destroyed 197,990 acres, 1,040 homes, 414 outbuildings, 239 vehicles, and damaged 70 homes and 25 outbuildings. The fire surpassed the 1970 Laguna Fire as the second-largest fire in California history.
- Oct. 24, 2007. Bush Pledges To Aid Fire-Swept California. In US News and World Report. Retrieved October 10, 2012 from http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/bulletin/bulletin_071024.htm.
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