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NIST Investigation of the California Camp Fire


Camp Fire Images

The Camp Fire ignited on the morning of November 8, 2018, near Camp Creek Road in Pulga, CA, located in the Sierra Nevada foothills in eastern Butte County. Fanned by high winds, the fire spread quickly through wildlands and burned into the wildland-urban interface (WUI) communities of Concow, Paradise, and Magalia, CA. Within hours, thousands of structures were destroyed as over 30 000 residents evacuated the area. The Camp Fire burned for 18 days, consumed 62,053 ha (153,336 ac), destroyed or damaged over 19 000 structures, and resulted in 85 civilian fatalities and three fire fighter injuries. 

In response, NIST deployed a team of investigators from their Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) group to conduct an initial reconnaissance of the Camp Fire. Subsequently, researchers embarked on a multi-year study of the Camp Fire, including the reconstruction of the fire progression timeline, as well as aspects of evacuation, emergency notification, and fire suppression/structure protection.

The NIST WUI Fire Data Collection on Parcel Vulnerabilities Project is focused on the technical understanding of how WUI fire behavior is driven by the interactions among fuel, weather, and terrain and the roles played by heat flux, embers, and direct flame impingement. NIST WUI research is conducted in partnership with other federal agencies, including the US Forest Service (USFS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), US Department of Homeland Security, US Fire Administration; state agencies, including California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and Texas Forest Service; Academia; fire service organizations including Western Fire Chiefs Association, International Association of Fire Fighters, and International Association of Fire Chiefs; and building codes and standards organizations, such as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and International Code Council (ICC).


  • Maranghides A., et al. (2020) Camp Fire Preliminary Reconnaissance. NIST Technical Note 2105. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD.

  • Maranghides A., et al. (2020) Preliminary Data Collected from the Camp Fire Reconnaissance. NIST Technical Note 2128. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD.
  • Maranghides A., et al. (2021) A Case Study of the Camp Fire – Fire Progression Timeline. NIST Technical Note 2135. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD.


Created March 5, 2019, Updated February 8, 2021