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California Witch and Guejito Wildland-Urban Interface Fires 2007

The October 2007 California wildfires were a series of wildfires that began burning across Southern California on October 20, 2007. At least 1,500 homes were destroyed and over 500,000 acres of land burned from Santa Barbara County to the U.S.–Mexico border.

Of all the fires, the two biggest were located in San Diego County. The largest, the Witch (Creek) Fire, burned areas north and northeast of San Diego.  The fire started in Witch Creek Canyon near Santa Ysabel and quickly spread to San Diego Country Estates, Ramona, Rancho Bernardo, Poway and Escondido. Locals in the San Pasqual Valley area reported wind gusts of over 100 mph (160 km/h). From there the fire jumped over Interstate 15 and continued west, causing significant damage in Lake Hodges, Del Dios and Rancho Santa Fe.  Strong Santa Ana winds pushed the fires west towards the coast.

The NIST Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Team was invited by CAL FIRE to collect post incident data from the California October 2007 fires. Early on, the NIST WUI Team initiated a case study within the Witch Fire perimeter. The case study is focused on The Trails development at Rancho Bernardo, north of the City of San Diego. There were 274 homes in The Trails, with 245 within the fire perimeter 74 homes were completely destroyed and 16 were partly damaged. Field measurements included structure particulars, specifically roof type, proximity of combustibles to the structure, and damage to wildland and residential vegetation. Documentation included over 11 000 pictures.

The paper, "A Case Study of a Community Affected by the Witch and Guejito Fires," addresses the event timeline reconstruction and general fire behavior observations.

California Wildfire 2007 FEMA/Andrea Booher

San Diego, CA, October 25, 2007 -- Helicopters drop water and fire retardant on the Harris fire, near the Mexican border, to stop the wildfire from advancing. Currently the fires in Southern California have burned nearly 350,000 acres. (Photo credit: Andrea Booher/FEMA)

Alexander Maranghides