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Fighting The Fire: Firefighters Faced Roaring Flames, Extreme Weather

A fire burns near a power line in Rancho Bernardo, October 2007.

Credit: San Diego Police Department

Above: A fire burns near a power line in Rancho Bernardo, October 2007.

Javier Mainer was an assistant fire chief for the city of San Diego when wildfires consumed large swaths of San Diego County in 2007. It was a difficult time for firefighters who were battling fires and extreme weather conditions. Mainer sat down with KPBS Reporter Erik Anderson to remember an October Sunday that seemed like a replay of the Cedar Fire just four years before.

Q: One thing that marked the Cedar fire in 2003, and the Witch and the Harris and all the other fires that burned in 2007, was this incredible wind. It really pushed the flames quickly.

A: The Witch Creek Fire began about 12:30 p.m. in the East County and based upon its progression we thought it might hit the city of San Diego about four or five in the morning. And that’s really when the battle was going to begin. What we saw in 2007 was sustained winds of 45 miles an hour and gusts in excess of 60 miles an hour. So, not only did that move the Witch Creek Fire very quickly, we thought it might hit us at 4 a.m. in the San Pasqual Valley. But about 2 a.m., a completely different fire, the Guejito Fire, began in the San Pasqual Valley and that created its own set of difficulties for everyone.