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A Case Study of the Camp Fire - Fire Progression Timeline



Alexander Maranghides, Eric D. Link, Christopher U. Brown, William Mell, Steven Hawks, Mike Wilson, Will Brewer, Robert Vihnanek, William D. Walton


The Camp Fire ignited on November 8, 2018 in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Butte County, California. The first 24 hours were characterized by a fast-moving fire with initial spread driven by high winds up to 22 m/s (50 mi/h) and long-range spotting up to 6.3 km (3.9 mi) into the community. The fire quickly impacted the communities of Concow, Paradise, and Magalia. The Camp Fire became the most destructive and deadly fire in California history, with over 18,000 destroyed structures, 700 damaged structures, and 85 fatalities. After a preliminary reconnaissance, it was determined that abundant data was available to support an in-depth case study of this devastating wildland-urban interface (WUI) fire to increase our understanding of WUI fire spread, fire behavior, evacuation, and structure response. The methodology guiding the case study and a detailed timeline reconstruction of the fire progression and fire behavior are presented. Over 2200 observations about fire spread and behavior were collected during the case study. Subsequent reports will detail additional aspects of the incident including emergency response and evacuation, and defensive actions and structure response. This study has identified that Butte County and the Town of Paradise were well prepared to respond to a WUI fire, that the Camp Fire grew and spread rapidly and that multiple factors contributed to the rapid growth and spread of the Camp Fire. Additionally, this study identified the importance of the wildland fire ignition location relative to the community, that multiple parcel-level fire spread pathways caused structure ignitions, and that WUI fire spread impacted the affected communities in multiple ways beyond the destruction of residential and commercial properties.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 2135
Report Number


burnover, community hazard reduction, disaster resilience, entrapment, field data collection, large outdoor fires, wildfire, wildland-urban interface, WUI, WUI data collection methodology, WUI fire spread


Maranghides, A. , Link, E. , Brown, C. , Mell, W. , Hawks, S. , Wilson, M. , Brewer, W. , Vihnanek, R. and Walton, W. (2021), A Case Study of the Camp Fire - Fire Progression Timeline, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 25, 2024)


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Created February 7, 2021, Updated March 1, 2021