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California Wildfire History

California has always dealt with wildfires

California has always dealt with wildfires. In recent years, they have become more common, widespreak, and destructive. Take a look at some of the more memorable wildfires that have impacted the State during the past 60 years.
 

A Little Wildfire History

1953 – Rattlesnake Fire
15 firefighters were killed in Mendocino National Forest when 13,000 acres burned. Arson was determined the cause. The Rattlesnake Fire is still used to train firefighters on proper wildfire procedures.

1961 – Bel Air Fire
The Bel Air-Brentwood Fire in Los Angeles County is one of the most famous fires in California history because much of it was captured on film, and because many of the 484 homes destroyed were owned by the Hollywood elite. 6,090 acres burned. Most believe the cause was accidental when two young boys lit a small fire to cook hotdogs.

1970 – Laguna Fire
Laguna Fire ran through the Laguna Canyon to the sea, then spread south to the San Diego County mountains. The fire is part of Southern California lore and is still commemorated in Laguna Beach. Six people died, 382 structures were destroyed and 175,425 acres burned. Downed power lines sparked the fire.

1991 – Oakland Hills Firestorm
The Tunnel Fire in October 1991 became known as the Oakland Hills Firestorm. It is famous because of news footage that captured panicked residents who had waited too long, trying in vain to evacuate the Oakland Hills of Alameda County. Most of the 25 people who died, were trapped in their cars, attempting to flee the fire. 3,276 homes and apartments were destroyed, and 1,520 acres burned.

2003 – Old Fire and Cedar Fire
October 2003 was one of the deadliest and most destructive wildfire seasons in Southern California history. Hot Santa Ana winds fed over a half-dozen wildfires stretching from San Diego County north to the suburbs of Los Angeles. 6 people were killed in the Old Fire, and 24 in the Cedar Fire, which still stands as the largest individual blaze in the state’s history. Many of the 24 who perished in the Cedar Fire were, like during the Oakland Fire Storms 12 years earlier, trapped in their vehicles as they tried to evacuate. At least 3,452 homes are destroyed.

2006 – Esperanza Fire
Five firefighters were killed when a wall of flames swept over their engine. The blaze, started by an arsonist, burned more that 40,000 acres over the course of four days. 34 homes and 20 outbuildings were destroyed.

2007 – California Wildfires of October
Like five years before, October 2007 was a month where the skies above Los Angeles were choked with smoke and ash from nearly constant wildfires. Santa Ana winds, clocked at 85 mph, whipped up a dozen separate blazes that burned a quarter of a million acres (384 square miles) from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border. 1,500 homes were destroyed, 500,000 people were evacuated.

2009 – Station Fire
The Station Fire was the largest wildfire in the history of Los Angeles County (as of December 2009)The Station Fire started in the Angeles National Forestnear the U.S. Forest Serviceranger station on the Angeles Crest Highway, on August 26, 2009. Two firefighters, Captain Tedmund Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnie Quinones, were killed on August 30, when their fire truck plunged off a cliff as they were transiting from one backfire location to another.The blaze threatened 12,000 structures in the National Forest and the nearby communities of La Cañada FlintridgePasadena, GlendaleActonLa CrescentaJuniper HillsLittlerockand Altadena, as well as the Sunlandand Tujunganeighborhoods of the City of Los Angeles. The Station Fire was 100% contained at 7:00 pm PST on Friday, October 16, 2009, in part due to some local rainfall related to a strong storm system in the area.

2012 – Rush Fire
The Rush Fire, which started in Lassen CountyCalifornia, eventually spread into Washoe CountyNevada. The fire consumed a total of 315,577 acres (490 square miles), including 271,991 acres (420 square miles) in California. As of the end of 2012, the burn area in California made the Rush Fire the second-largest wildfire in California since 1932 (when this type of data began to be tabulated).

2013 – Rim Fire
The Rim Fire was a massive wildfirethat started in a remote canyon in Stanislaus National Forestin California. This section of the central Sierra Nevadabridges Tuolumneand Mariposacounties. The fire began on August 17, 2013. The Rim Fire is also the largest wildfire on record in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.The Rim Fire was fully contained on Thursday, October 24, 2013 after a nine-week firefighting battle. More than a year passed before it was declared out on November 4, 2014.

2017 – Thomas Fire
The Thomas Fire was a huge wildfirethat impacted both Venturaand Santa BarbaraCounties. It burned approximately 281,893 acres (440 square miles), becoming the largest wildfire in modern California history(since surpassed by the Mendocino Complex Fire‘s Ranch Fire in August 2018, and possible surpassed again by the Camp, Hill, and Woolsey fires), before it was fully contained on January 12, 2018. The Thomas Fire destroyed more than 1,063 structures, damaging 280 others. The fire caused more than $2.2 billion in damage, including $232 million in suppression costs, becoming one of the most destructive wildfires in California history.

2017 – La Tuna Fire
The La Tuna Fire ignited on September 1, 2017, and burned 7,194 acres through the Verdugo Mountainsin Los Angeles, CaliforniaIt destroyed five homes and caused the evacuations of more than 300 homes. It was the largest wildfire in the city of Los Angeles in 50 years and the largest historically in terms of acres destroyed. The fire was finally contained on September 9th, 2017. Following the fire, Los Angeles City Council began establishing a series of best practices for residents to be prepared and to deal with large-scale emergencies. This includes utilizing some of the educational materials developed by MySafe:LA, and a new series of registration methods supported by the City’s Emergency Management Department and the American Red Cross.

2018 – Mendocino Complex Fire
The Mendocino Complex Fire is considered the largest recorded fire complex in California history. Unlike make wildfires, this devastating fire includes two separate fires, the River Fireand Ranch Fire to mergeThese two fires burned in MendocinoLakeColusa, and GlennCounties, with the Ranch Fire being California’s largest recorded wildfire. The fires started on July 27, 2018, and burned a combined total of 459,123 acres, before they were collectively 100% contained on September 18, 2018. The Ranch Fire alone burned 410,203 acres, surpassing the Thomas Fireto become the single-largest modern California wildfire.The Ranch Fire also surpassed the size of the 315,577-acre Rush Fire, which burned across California and Nevada. The fires collectively destroyed 280 structures while damaging 37 others; causing more than $268 million in damages.

2018 – Carr Fire
The Carr Fire was a significant wildfire that burned in Shastaand Trinity Counties. The fire started on the afternoon of July 23, 2018. Three days later, on July 26, the fire jumped the Sacramento River, making its way into the city of Redding, causing the evacuation of 38,000 people. Evacuations also took place in Summit CityKeswickLewistonShasta Lake CityIgoOno, and French Gulch. Eight people died in the fire, including three firefighters. The Carr burned 229,651 acres (9359 square miles), before it was 100% contained late on August 30, 2018. The Carr Fire destroyed more than 1,604 structures (1,077 were homes) while damaging 277 others, becoming the sixth-most destructive fire in California history,as well as the seventh-largest wildfire recorded as of the end of August, 2018.

2018 – Camp Fire
In progress

2018 – Hill Fire
In progress

2017 – Woolsey Fire
In progress

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