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Fire-Rescue Department

2003 - Cedar Fire

Photo of Cedar FirePhoto of Engine at Cedar Fire

The Cedar Fire was the largest wildland fire in California history. It started 25 miles east of San Diego, in the Cleveland National Forest, when a hunter became lost and lit a small fire to signal for help. It quickly spread out of control. At 5:30 in the evening of October 25, it was reported at 20 acres. By midnight it was 5,500 acres, and by 3:00 a.m. 62,000 acres. The Cedar Fire first crossed into the city of San Diego at 6:30 in the morning on October 26.

The Fire-Rescue Department responded with 50 engine companies,11 brush rigs, 9 truck companies and two airport firefighting rigs. The communities of Scripps Ranch and Tierrasanta were hardest hit by the fire. By the time containment was declared on October 28th, 28,676 acres within the city had burned. 335 structures were destroyed, 71 others were damaged. The dollar loss was estimated at $204 million. Throughout the county, the Cedar Fire destroyed 280,278 acres, 2,820 buildings and killed 15 people.