Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Public Safety

San Diegans Know All Too Well The Risk Of Wildfires

Firefighters battle the Witch fire on Oct. 23, 2007, in Escondido.
Sandy Huffaker
Firefighters battle the Witch fire on Oct. 23, 2007, in Escondido.

As San Diego County residents well know, large fires aren’t new to our region.

This century alone, we have had two massive wildfires, each burning 14 percent of the county’s land. Thousands of homes were destroyed. The death toll – a staggering 24 people.

Tuesday’s Bernardo fire reminds us of that frightening past and the need to always remain prepared to flee should disaster strike.


Here is a snapshot of four of the notable large fires in recent San Diego County history:

October 2003

• The Cedar, Paradise and Otay fires scorched 376,237 acres, or 588 square miles of the county. More than 2,500 homes were destroyed; 17 people died.

• The Cedar fire was the largest, burning more than 280,000 acres, and included Scripps Ranch, Tierrasanta, Lakeside, Harbison Canyon, Crest, Cuyamaca and Julian.

• The Paradise fire burned 56,700 acres near Valley Center.

• The Otay fire burned nearly 96,000 acres near the Mexico border.


October 2007

• The Witch Creek, Harris, Poomacha, Horno/Ammo and Rice fires scorched 368,430 acres, or 576 square miles of the county. Nearly 1,600 homes were destroyed; 10 people died.

• The Witch Creek fire burned 197,990 acres from Julian to Rancho Bernardo.

• The Harris fire consumed 90,440 acres east of Chula Vista, near the border with Mexico.

• The Poomacha fire burned 50,000 acres in Pauma Valley, east of Valley Center.

• The Horno/Ammo fire scorched 21,000 acres on Camp Pendleton.

• The Rice fire burned 9,000 acres in Fallbrook.

Sept. 26 to Oct. 3, 1970

• The Laguna fire consumed 175,425 acres and stretched from near Mount Laguna in East County. It spread into El Cajon and Spring Valley. The fire destroyed 382 homes; eight people died.

June 30, 1985

• The Normal Heights fire burned 300 acres, destroying 76 homes and damaging 57 others. No one died.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.