Graphic collage of various scenes from the 2003 San Diego Wildfires
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OVERVIEW

Photo bySteven R. Davis

San Diego under a thick layer of oppressive smoke from the Otay, Cedar, and

Paradise Fires (October, 2003)

Two extraordinary features of the wildfires that swept through San Diego County in October, 2003 were their size and simultaneity. By the time it had burned a devastating swath through the backcountry, the Cedar Fire earned the status of being the largest single fire in California history in terms of acres burned. But it was not a single event.  The Otay and Paradise Fires raged elsewhere in the county at the same time, joined by a much smaller fire on Camp Pendleton (Roblar Fire).  In addition, there were other very large fires burning around the same time in other parts of Southern California (San Bernardino's Old Fire and Grand Prix Fire, Riverside County's Mountain Fire, Los Angeles County's Padua and Simi Valley Fires, and Ventura County's Piru Fire.) These contigencies created serious strategic and tactical problems for local and State fire agencies, and one was of the factors, along with hot dry weather and winds, that resulted in so much damage to people, property, habitats, and wildlife.

 

                                                                                                       EUGENE LARET / SignOnSanDiego.com

Roblar 2 Fire


Cause: Under investigation
Reported: Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003
Extinguished: Nov. 4, 2003
Deaths: 0
Injuries: 0
Damage: No residences or structures
Acerage Burned: 8,592
Firefighting Cost: $5.4 million

 

Paradise Fire

Cause: Arson
Reported: 1:30 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003
Extinguished: Dec. 5, 2003.
Deaths: 2 civilians
Injuries: 31 firefighters
Damage: 221 residences (destroyed)
              192 outbuildings (destroyed)
              2 commercial properties (destroyed)
              7 outbuildings destroyed (destroyed)
              10 residences and 5 outbuildings

                 (damaged)
Acreage burned: 56,700

Firefighting cost: $12.6 million

Paradise Fire, near Valley Center, in its early stage                           Photo by JOHN GIBBINS / Union-Tribune

Photo by CHARLIE NEUMAN / Union-Tribune

Paradise Fire burning grass and rangelands near lake Wohlford

Cedar Fire


Cause: Human
Reported: 5:37 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2003
Extinguished: Dec. 5, 2003
Deaths: 14 civilians, 1 firefighter
Injuries: 113 firefighters
Damage: 2,232 residences (destroyed)
              22 commercial properties (destroyed)
              566 outbuildings (destroyed)
              53 residences (damaged)
              10 outbuildings (damaged)
              148 vehicles (destroyed)

Acreage Burned: 273,246

Firefighting Cost: $32 million

Photo by JOHN GIBBINS / Union-Tribune

Cedar Fire about to engulf the Scripps Ranch residential community

Cedar Fire sweeping through the Ramona backcountry              Photo by JOHN GASTALDO / Union-Tribune

Fire fighters battle the blaze                                                               Photo by JOHN GASTALDO / Union-Tribune

Looking East across El Cajon and Lakeside as the Cedar Fire burns out of control

 

Otay Fire

Cause: Under investigation
Reported: 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003
Extinguished: Oct. 29, 2003
Injuries: 1 firefighter
Damage: 1 residence (destroyed)
              5 outbuildings (destroyed)

Acreage burned: 46,291

Firefighting cost: Unavailable

Early stages of Otay Fire viewed from Marron Valley Road in Dulzura                          Photo by Joyce Schlachter

Otay Truck Trail, looking West (Sunday, October 26, 2003)                                         Photo by Joyce Schlachter

 

Satellite Overview

Monday, October 27, 2003                                               Associated Press

Smoke from various wildfires across Southern California, captured by NASA's

Aqua satellite, drifts over the Pacific Ocean on Monday. The fires are marked

with a red outline.

BEFORE - October 21, 2003                               Image courtesy SeaSpace Corporation

 

AFTER - November 5, 2003                                Image courtesy SeaSpace Corporatio

 

Photo Credits:

Associated Press. (2003). Satellite image of Southern California, Ocotber 27, 2003. Retrieved January 23, 2005 from SignOnSanDiego at http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/fires/multimedia.html#


Laret, E. (2003). Map of San Diego wildfires, 2003. Retrieved from SignOnSanDiego at http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/fires/weekoffire/20031026-sosdmainbar.html#

SeaSpace Corporation. (2003). Before and after satellite images of 2003 San Diego wildfires. Retrieved January 23, 2005 from SignOnSanDiego at http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/fires/multimedia.html#

Schlachter, J. (2003). Selected photos of Otay fire. U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management (Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office).

Graphic of blue bar
Copyright 2004 San Diego State University Foundation