Wednesday, Jun. 08, 2011

The Cedar Fire, Southern California, 2003

This historic blaze — the largest in California's history — was actually 14 separate fires that raged throughout the parched land in the southern part of the state. One of the infernos, named the Cedar Fire, burned through San Diego County in the final days of October 2003 after a lost hiker ignited a small fire to alert rescuers. Firefighters, already stretched thin by other fires in the state, struggled to contain the wind-fueled flames which consumed 273,246 acres and more than 2,000 homes. When all 14 fires were extinguished by the second week of November, more than 750 thousand acres had been scorched, causing more than $2 billion in property damage. Following the 2003 destruction, the "fire siege" moniker appeared almost annually as the state's dry woodlands were easily ignited by rogue flames. The 2008 Northern California wildfires again saw a historic fire season for the state. From May to August, more than 2,780 individual fires raged from the Oregon border to the desert land of central California. The flames, many ignited by lightning strikes, charred 1.1 million acres and drew fire crews from all over the world who came to help put out the flames.