Freeway Complex Fire

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Freeway Complex Fire
Freeway Complex Fire.jpg
Fire along the SR 91 freeway near Yorba Linda
Location Southern California
Cost $16.1 million (2008 USD)
Date(s) November 15, 2008 at 9:01 a.m. – November 25, 2008 at 8:00 a.m.
Burned area 30,305 acres (12,264 ha)
  • Freeway Fire source: Faulty catalytic converter
  • Landfill Fire source: Faulty power lines
Land use Mixed; residential and wilderness
Injuries 14 firefighters
Fatalities 0

The Freeway Complex Fire also known as the Triangle Complex Fire or Corona Fire was a 2008 wildfire in the Santa Ana Canyon area of Orange County in the US state of California. The fire is notable for the extensive property damage in Anaheim Hills and Yorba Linda. Some 314 residences were destroyed or damaged in those two communities.


The Freeway Complex Fire began at 9:01 a.m. PDT November 15, 2008, along the Riverside Freeway (State Route 91, SR 91) in the riverbed of the Santa Ana River located in Corona.[1] The fire spread west and north into the hillsides of Yorba Linda and south into Anaheim Hills, where multiple businesses and residences were destroyed. It also burned homes in Olinda Ranch along Carbon Canyon Road in Brea, burned through much of Chino Hills, then spread north into Diamond Bar.

The Landfill Fire, also known as the "Brea Fire," was reported at 10:43 a.m. PDT on November 15, 2008, and started near the 1900 block of Valencia Avenue in Brea, just south of the Olinda Landfill. It quickly spread west and eventually jumped the Orange Freeway (SR 57).

The Landfill Fire merged with the Freeway Fire at 3:30 a.m. PDT on November 16, 2008. At approximately 7:00 a.m. PDT the two fires were officially renamed the Triangle Complex Fire. Around 12:45 p.m. the Triangle Complex Fire had been renamed again to the Freeway Complex Fire still using the OCFA incident number CA-ORC-08075221.[1][2] According to the final cause report released by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) on January 4, 2010, the cause of the Freeway fire was a faulty catalytic converter, which the State of California requires in every motor vehicle for the purposes of cutting down emissions.[3]


The preliminary cause of the Freeway Fire was thought to be the result of a vehicle exhaust system igniting roadside vegetation. The fire investigation report was completed by the end of March 2009. According to the final cause report released by CAL FIRE on January 4, 2010, the cause of the fire was a faulty catalytic converter.

The Landfill Fire was investigated by the Brea Police Department, along with investigators from the OCFA. The fire was determined to have been caused by inadequate maintenance of power lines supplying electricity to equipment in the Brea-Olinda Oil Field. The electrical lines were owned by the BreitBurn Management Company in Los Angeles. Investigators believe arcing or a discharge of electric current from the power lines caused the brush near the lines in the fields northeast of Valencia Avenue and Carbon Canyon Road to ignite.

Structures damaged or destroyed[edit]

This house in Hidden Hills had not yet begun to be rebuilt as of May 2010. Many similar properties remain razed in Yorba Linda and elsewhere.
  • 187 residential structures destroyed (includes multi-family residences)
  • 127 residential structures damaged
  • 2 commercial properties destroyed
  • 2 commercial properties damaged
  • 11 outbuildings/other destroyed
  • 32 outbuildings/other damaged[4]

Burn areas[edit]

It was calculated that 30,305 acres (12,264 ha) were burned,[5] including 90% of Chino Hills State Park.[6] The calculated acreage burned would make the fire the fourth largest fire on record in Orange County History behind the 1967 Paseo Grande Fire, Steward Fire of 1958 and the Green River Fire of 1948.[7]


Chino Hills State Park burn area

About 40,000 were evacuated. Areas under mandatory evacuation during the fires included:

  • Yorba Linda: east and south of Village Center to the county line (Released by 1730 November 16, 2008)
  • Brea: east of State College & Brea Blvd/Brea Canyon Rd., north of Imperial Highway, west of Prospect
  • Anaheim: west of the 241 freeway, south of the 91 Freeway, north of Canyon Rim Rd., and west of Deer Canyon Park and Fairmont Park including SAVI Ranch. (Released by 1730 November 16, 2008)
  • Carbon Canyon: east of Valencia to the County Line including Olinda Village, Hollydale.
  • Chino Hills: Sleepy Hollow, Carriage Hills, Oak Tree Downs, Vellano Estates and Golf Course, Los Serranos Ranch, Butterfield Ranch (up to Soquel Canyon Road), Ridgegate Estates & Western Hills Estates
  • Diamond Bar: The Country, Falcon Ridge, Chirping Sparrow, Hawk Wood, Running Branch, Fair Wind & High Bluff

There was also an evacuation in Corona.[8]

Freeway closures[edit]

Closure of SR 91
Smoke from the Freeway Complex Fire over the Pacific Ocean toward Catalina Island as seen from Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach. This photo was taken at 1pm.

The Freeway Complex Fire forced the closure of the Riverside Freeway (SR 91), the Chino Valley Freeway (SR 71) and the 241 Transportation Corridor. The Landfill Fire temporarily closed the Orange Freeway (SR 57) in northern Orange County.

School closures[edit]

Other fires in the southland[edit]

Preceding this fire was an outbreak to the northwest, the Sayre Fire in Sylmar (November 14). Both were fires were preceded by an unrelated fire along the Pacific Coast, the Tea Fire in Santa Barbara and Montecito, which had ignited on November 13.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Orange County Fire Authority Media Center. "Freeway Complex Fire Preliminary Report". Orange County Fire Authority. Archived from the original on December 9, 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008. 
  2. ^ O'Connor, Robert (November 15, 2008). "CA-ORC—Landfill IC—WUI Wildland Fire—2000+ Acres". California Fire News. Retrieved November 29, 2008. [unreliable source?][self-published source]
  3. ^ "Catalytic Converter Started Freeway Complex Fire". Los Angeles: KNBC-TV. July 16, 2009. Retrieved January 7, 2010. 
  4. ^ California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (November 19, 2008). "Freeway Complex". California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Archived from the original on December 7, 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008. 
  5. ^ Carpenter, Eric; Irving, Doug; Robbins, Gary (November 16, 2008). "Thousands of Firefighters Still Battling on the Front Lines". The Orange County Register. Santa Ana, CA. Archived from the original on November 16, 2008. Retrieved November 16, 2008. 
  6. ^ California State Parks. "2008 Chino Hills rain threat" (PDF). Retrieved November 29, 2008. [dead link]
  7. ^ Prather, Chip (April 23, 2009). "Freeway Complex Fire After Action Report: A Report to the Orange County Fire Authority Board of Directors" (PDF). Retrieved August 31, 2009. 
  8. ^ Orange County Fire Authority. "OCFA 2008 News Releases". Orange County Fire Authority. Archived from the original on March 12, 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2008. 
  9. ^ Orange County Fire Authority (November 16, 2008). "Updated School Closures in Freeway Complex Fire Areas (Formerly Triangle Complex Fire)" (PDF) (Press release). Orange County Fire Authority. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 18, 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2008. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°52.9′N 117°39′W / 33.8817°N 117.650°W / 33.8817; -117.650