May 2014 San Diego County wildfires
|May 2014 San Diego County wildfires|
Satellite image of several of the wildfires in San Diego County on May 14, 2014.
|Location||San Diego County, California|
|Cost||At least $60 million (2014 USD)|
|Date(s)||May 5–22, 2014|
|Burned area||At least 29,388 acres (11,893 ha)|
|Ignition source||Heat; arsonist; faulty construction equipment; other causes under investigation|
|Injuries (non-fatal)||At least 6|
The May 2014 San Diego County wildfires (also known as the "2014 San Diego Firestorm") were a swarm of wildfires that erupted during May 2014, in San Diego County, California, during severe Santa Ana Wind conditions, historic drought conditions, and a heat wave. The main event during mid-May was preceded by a precursor fire that ignited on May 5. The severe weather conditions contributed to the spread of at least 19 more individual wildfires, with ten of them receiving names. The Bernardo Fire has been declared accidental, and officials believe the Cocos Fire was intentionally set. The causes of the other fires are still under investigation by multiple agencies, and a joint task force was formed to coordinate the investigations and facilitate communications. Six injuries and one fire-related fatality have been reported.
At least eight major (named) fires were burning simultaneously at the height of the event, as well as several unnamed small brush fires. Smoke from the fires prompted health advisories in parts of Orange and Los Angeles counties. On May 17, the Santa Ana winds ceased and temperatures lowered from 98 °F into the mid-90s, giving hope to firefighters. On May 18, weather conditions had returned to seasonal normal, with lower temperatures in the lower 80s and higher humidity. Most of the fires were fully contained at that point, including the Poinsettia Fire, Highway Fire, River Fire, Freeway Fire, Bernardo Fire, and the Tomahawk Fire. The San Mateo Fire was extinguished on May 20, with the Tomahawk and Cocos Fires following on May 21 and 22 respectively.
By May 18, the fires had burned more than 27,000 acres (42 sq mi) of land. The three wildfires at Camp Pendleton are estimated to have burned 27,000 acres (11,000 ha), which is over 22% of the base. More than 55 properties and buildings were damaged or destroyed. By the end of the event on May 22, the wildfires had burned a total of 29,388 acres (11,893 ha) of land. Damage estimates are still being compiled, but the County estimates that the fires cost close to $60 million (2014 USD), including $29.8 million in destruction or damage to private property, and $27.9 million in the costs of firefighting, support, and environmental damage.
At 1:25 PM on May 14, the County of San Diego declared a local emergency. Later that evening, Governor Jerry Brown and the state of California declared a state of emergency for the county and affected areas.
Multiple school districts, California State University at San Marcos, MiraCosta College and Palomar College were forced to cancel classes and close schools for one or more days; CSUSM and Palomar also postponed or cancelled commencement exercises due to the fires. All evacuation orders were lifted by May 18, and all schools resumed classes on May 19.
The Jacumba Fire was a precursor wildfire, which the preceded the main outbreak of wildfires that occurred a week later. At 4:36 PM PDT on May 5, the Jacumba Fire was reported off Interstate 8, east of McCain Valley Road. The fire expanded to a maximum of 29 acres (12 ha), before it was fully contained at 10:20 AM PDT on May 20.
The Bernardo Fire in San Diego and several of its North County suburbs started on May 13, at 10:00 AM PDT, just south of Del Norte High School, in a construction trench off Nighthawk Lane. Over the next few hours, the wildfire intensified, due to the strong Santa Ana winds driving it southward. This prompted the evacuation of several schools (with the exception of Del Norte High School), in addition to at least 20,000 homes. Within several hours, the fire covered at least 800 acres (320 ha) and was only 5% contained. The rapid southward spread of the fire caused mandatory evacuation orders to be issued for portions of 4S Ranch, Del Sur, Black Mountain Ranch, Rancho Santa Fe, and other residential communities. Late on May 13, the Bernardo Fire reached a size of 1,600 acres (650 ha). By 12:00 AM PDT on May 14, the portion of the fire within 4S Ranch and Del Sur had been completely extinguished, which was about 25% of the Bernardo Fire's 1,600 acre blaze. Later on May 14, all of the evacuation orders were lifted.
On Wednesday, May 14, at 6 PM PDT, the wildfire was 50% contained. By the next morning, it was reported as 75% contained and no longer expanding. On May 16, the Bernardo Fire was reported to be 90% contained, but some structures were still threatened by the fire. On May 17, the fire was 95% contained, without having expanded any further. On May 17, at 8:14 PM PDT, the Bernardo Fire was reported to be 100% contained.
The San Diego Unified School District closed all its schools citywide on May 15, but reopened most of them on May 16.
The cause of the Bernardo Fire has been ruled to be accidental; authorities said that it started in a small trench being dug by a construction crew and spread rapidly through the dry brush at the site.
The Tomahawk Fire was the second largest of the San Diego County fires in terms of size, behind the Pulgas Fire. The Tomahawk Fire started on May 14 around 9:45 AM, on the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Detachment Fallbrook (also known as Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station). The Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station is on the eastern side of, and provides an entry point to, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and is adjacent to the community of Fallbrook. Evacuation orders were issued for several schools and housing areas, as well as the Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station and the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. By 8 PM PDT on May 14, the Tomahawk Fire had reached a size of 6,000 acres (2,400 ha). On May 16, the fire had burned 6,300 acres (2,500 ha), and it was 23% contained. By May 17, it had burned 6,500 acres (2,600 ha) and was 65% contained. At 10:45 AM PDT on May 17, the Tomahawk Fire was reported to be 75% contained. During the evening of May 18, the fire was reported to be 100% contained.
The Poinsettia Fire was the most destructive of the San Diego County wildfires. It caused property damage estimated at $22.5 million, as well as the only reported fatality in the San Diego County series of wildfires. As of July 10, 2014, the cause of the fire is listed as "undetermined", which allows for further investigation if more information comes to light.
The Poinsettia Fire started on May 14, around 10:40 AM PDT, in the city of Carlsbad. Burning in dry brush north of El Camino Real, it began near the intersection of Poinsettia Lane and Alicante. After the fire crossed El Camino Real, evacuation orders were issued to 11,600 homes and businesses in Carlsbad. Two elementary schools and a middle school were also evacuated. By the end of the day on May 14, the fire had destroyed eight homes, an 18-unit condominium complex, and two commercial buildings. The Carlsbad Unified School District closed all schools May 15 and 16.
At 5 PM PDT on May 14, the fire covered more than 400 acres (160 ha). Firefighters said they had stopped its spread, but it was only 10% contained and additional structures were threatened. During the evening of May 14, the Poinsettia Fire reached a size of 400 acres (160 ha). By morning the next day it was reported that the fire was 60% contained. Early on May 16, the fire had burned 400 acres (160 ha) and was 85% contained. As a result, all of the evacuation orders were lifted. During the late morning hours, the fire was reported to be 100% contained, after reaching a size of 600 acres (240 ha).
During the evening of May 15, firefighters found a badly burned body near the site of a known transient encampment in Carlsbad. The victim has not been identified, and the cause of death has not yet been determined.
The Highway Fire near Bonsall and Fallbrook, started at 1 PM on May 14 near Interstate 15 and California State Route 76. Several schools and about 600 residents were evacuated. By 6 pm May 15, the fire was 100% contained, after reaching a size of 441 acres (178 ha). Authorities reported around $1.1 million in damage and a total area of 441 acres (178 ha).
The River Fire broke out at 1:30 PM on May 14, in Oceanside, starting in the San Luis Rey River riverbed. Homes and an elementary school in the area were evacuated. The Oceanside Unified School District said that all schools would be closed on May 15. By the evening of May 14, the River Fire had burned 50 acres (20 ha) of land, and it was reported 20% contained. On May 15, the fire reached a size of 100 acres (40 ha). On May 16, it was reported that the River Fire was 100% contained, after it had burned 105 acres (42 ha) of land, confined to the river bed. A man was arrested on May 15 and charged with arson, after witnesses saw him adding brush to the flames, but authorities do not believe he started the fire.
The Cocos Fire, previously known as the Twin Oaks Fire, was a wildfire that ignited on May 14 in San Marcos, in the hills south of California State University, San Marcos. The Cocos Fire quickly spread into western Escondido. The fire destroyed more than 40 buildings, including a dozen single-family homes. The Harmony Grove Spiritualist Association, a 13-acre spiritualist retreat founded in 1896, was particularly hard hit; most of the buildings and residences on the property were destroyed, and the association's president said, "We're pretty much wiped out." Property damage from the fire is estimated at more than $5.7 million. Three minor injuries have been reported.
The Cocos Fire began at 5:38 PM PDT on May 14, and it had burned 400 acres (160 ha) by the evening of the same day. Flames were reported near homes, and the southeastern part of the city was ordered evacuated. By the morning of May 15 the Cocos Fire was the top priority for county firefighters. It grew overnight to 800 acres (320 ha) and was only 5% contained. Additional evacuations were announced. During the afternoon of May 15, the fire grew to 1,200 acres (490 ha). By the morning of May 16 the fire was still only 5% contained; several hours later, the fire grew to 3,018 acres (1,221 ha) with 15% containment. During the late afternoon of May 16, the Cocos fire was reported as 50% contained. During the morning of May 17, the fire was 70% contained. At 8:20 PM PDT on May 17, the Cocos Fire was 80% contained. On May 20, fire was reduced to 1,995 acres (807 ha) and was 93% contained. At 6:30 PM PDT on May 22, the Cocos Fire was reported to be 100% contained.
All schools in the San Marcos Unified School District were closed on May 15 and 16. California State University, San Marcos, was evacuated on May 14, along with the surrounding neighborhoods, in the midst of administering spring finals, and remained closed for the rest of the week. Additionally, commencement exercises scheduled for the weekend were also cancelled. Palomar College also closed May 15 and 16, and postponed its commencement ceremonies until the following week.
On July 9, 2014, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said that they believe the Cocos Fire was intentionally set by a juvenile. The unidentified juvenile was scheduled to appear in Juvenile Court. She had a hearing set in February 2015, and the trial was held in March 2015. On March 24, the now 14-year-old minor was found guilty of multiple counts of arson and one misdemeanor count of unlawfully allowing a fire to escape one's control. The judge concluded that she "intentionally and maliciously" set a fire in her Washingtonia Avenue backyard in San Marcos, and a blown ember from that Washingtonia Fire started the Cocos Fire. On April 15, the Juvenile Court equivalent of a sentencing hearing will decide the disposition of the case. The girl is currently subject to a nighttime curfew but is not in custody.
Another wildfire, the Freeway Fire also started at the Naval Weapons Station area of Camp Pendleton. It was reported at 5:43 PM on May 14. On May 16, the fire had burned 56 acres (23 ha) and was 100% contained.
On May 14, the Aurora Fire broke out near Interstate 8-Business and Aurora Drive. Around noontime on May 15, the fire was reported as 100% contained after it had reached a size of 17 acres (6.9 ha).
At 2:45 PM PDT on May 15, the Pulgas Fire broke out at Camp Pendleton near Interstate 5 at Las Pulgas Road, to the north of Oceanside. The fire burned 500 acres (200 ha) acres within the next couple of hours. It became the largest of the fires in May 2014, scorching a total of 15,000 acres (6,100 ha) of land. During the evening of May 18, the fire was reported to be 75% contained. During the morning of May 20, the Pulgas Fire was reported to be 99% contained. During the afternoon of May 21, the Pulgas Fire was reported to be 100% contained.
San Mateo Fire
At around 11:24 PM PDT on May 16, Camp Pendleton reported a third wildfire on base. The fire was initially called the Talega Fire and later the Combat Fire by CAL FIRE, before finally being renamed to the San Mateo Fire. The fire started near the Camp Talega area of the base, near Basilone Road. By the mid-afternoon of May 16, the fire had burned about 25 acres (10 ha). All non-essential personnel were ordered to be sent home at noon. Evacuation orders were given to personnel in nearby areas of the base including some housing facilities and a school. By May 17, the fire had grown to 800 acres (320 ha) and it was 25% contained. At 10:45 AM PDT on May 17, it had expanded to 1,000 acres (400 ha) and was still reported to be 25% contained. During the evening of May 18, the fire was reported to have burned 1,500 acres (610 ha), and was 97% contained. During the morning of May 20, the San Mateo Fire was reported to be 99% contained. Very late at night on May 20, the San Mateo Fire was reported to be 100% contained. The cause of the wildfire is currently under investigation.
An unnamed small brushfire started in the backyard of a home on Bear Valley Parkway in Escondido, at about 2 PM on May 14. Homes were threatened, and the evacuations some of homes and businesses were ordered in the area of Bear Valley Parkway and Oak Hill. The fire destroyed one outbuilding and several vehicles. Fire crews were able to extinguish the blaze by 2:45 PM, after it had burned a total of 1 acre (0.40 ha) of land.
On May 14, another small brush fire broke out in Escondido on the corner of El Norte Parkway and Nordahl Rd, which was also quickly extinguished.
On May 15, two teenagers were arrested and charged with arson for attempting to ignite two small brush fires, both of which were extinguished within minutes. Police had no evidence linking them to any of the actual major wildfires, and ultimately, no charges were filed against the suspects.
At 8:00 AM PDT on May 17, a brush fire was reported in a canyon area northwest of Santee Lakes, called the Sycamore Fire. It burned about 30 acres (12 ha) in an unpopulated area of West Sycamore Canyon, near the eastern edge of MCAS Miramar. Several hours later, the fire was 100% contained.
- "San Diego Complex" was the name assigned by CAL FIRE for the combined Incident Command of the Bernardo, Poinsettia, Highway, River, Aurora, and Sycamore Fires.
- The "Basilone Complex" was the combined Incident Command of the Tomahawk, Freeway, Pulgas, and Combat Fires at Camp Pendleton.
- List of California wildfires
- Climate change in California
- 2014 California wildfires
- 2013 California wildfires
- 2009 California wildfires
- November 2008 California wildfires
- Summer 2008 California wildfires
- October 2007 California wildfires
- Cedar Fire
- Old Fire (2003)
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