May 2014 San Diego County wildfires

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May 2014 San Diego County wildfires
Satellite image of several of the wildfires in San Diego County on May 14, 2014.
LocationSan Diego County, California
Total fires20
Cost$60 million (2014 USD) total
Date(s)May 5, 2014 (2014-05-05) – May 22, 2014 (2014-05-22)
Burned areaAt least 26,001 acres (10,522 ha)
CauseArson, faulty construction equipment, etc.
Deaths1 confirmed[3]
Non-fatal injuriesAt least 6

The May 2014 San Diego County wildfires were a swarm of 20 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 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.[4] Six injuries and one fire-related fatality were reported.[3]

At least eight major (named) fires were burning simultaneously at the height of the event, as well as several unnamed small brush fires.[5] Smoke from the fires also prompted health advisories in parts of Orange and Los Angeles counties.[6]

On May 14, the County of San Diego declared a local emergency.[7] Later that evening, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the county and affected areas.[8]

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 Cocos Fire was the last of the May 2014 wildfires to be extinguished, with full containment on May 22.[9] By the time the last of the fires was extinguished, approximately 26,001 acres (105 km2) of land had burned and an estimated 65 structures had been destroyed.[2][10] Damage estimates were still being compiled as of late May 2014, but the County estimated 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.[11]


The May outbreak of fires occurred during a period of offshore flow throughout Southern California that meteorologist deemed highly unusual for the month of May.[2] Beginning on May 11, the situation turned critical and red flag warnings went were issued across the region. By May 14, with the warnings still in effect, daytime temperatures were hovering around 100 °F (38 °C), with humidity below 10%.[2]

On May 17, the Santa Ana Winds subsided and temperatures started to drop. On May 18, weather conditions had returned to seasonal norms, with lower temperatures around 80 °F (27 °C) and higher humidity.[2]


Map of the major wildfires in San Diego County
Name Acres Km2 Start Date Containment Date Notes Ref
Jacumba 29 0.1 May 5, 2014 May 6, 2014 [12]
Bernardo 1,548 6.3 May 13, 2014 May 17, 2014 [13]
Tomahawk 5,367 21.7 May 14, 2014 May 19, 2014 [14]
Poinsettia 600 2.4 May 14, 2014 May 17, 2014 28 structures destroyed [15]
Highway 380 1.5 May 14, 2014 May 15, 2014 [16]
River 105 0.4 May 14, 2014 May 19, 2014 [17]
Cocos 1,995 8.1 May 14, 2014 May 22, 2014 40 structures destroyed [18]
Freeway 56 0.2 May 14, 2014 May 20, 2014 [19]
Aurora 17 0.1 May 14, 2014 May 14, 2014 [2][20]
Pulgas 14,416 58.3 May 15, 2014 May 21, 2014 [21]
San Mateo 1,457 5.9 May 16, 2014 May 20, 2014 [22]
Sycamore 30 0.1 May 17, 2014 May 17, 2014 [23]

Jacumba Fire[edit]

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.[12]

Bernardo Fire[edit]

The Bernardo Fire in 4S Ranch, near Rancho Bernardo, started on May 13, at 10:00 AM PDT, just south of Del Norte High School, in a construction trench off Nighthawk Lane. The fire burned 1,548 acres (6 km2), before it was ultimately brought under control on May 17.[24] The cause of the fire was ruled to be accidental; authorities said that it started in a small trench being dug by a construction crew, with sparks from a backhoe trencher setting off the fire, which spread rapidly through the dry brush at the site.[25]

Tomahawk Fire[edit]

The Tomahawk Fire was the second-largest wildfire during the outbreak, behind the Pulgas Fire. The fire, which started May 14 around 9:45 AM, on the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Detachment Fallbrook (also known as Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station), scorched 5,367 acres (21.72 km2).[26] 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.

Poinsettia Fire[edit]

The Poinsettia Fire was the second most destructive of the San Diego County wildfires.[27] It caused property damage estimated at $22.5 million,[28] 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.[29]

Highway Fire[edit]

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 PDT on May 15, the fire was 100% contained, after reaching a size of 441 acres (178 ha).[30] Authorities reported around $1.1 million in damage and a total area of 441 acres (178 ha).[31][32]

River Fire[edit]

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.[33] The Oceanside Unified School District said that all schools would be closed on May 15.[34] 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 actually started the fire.[35]

Cocos Fire[edit]

The Cocos Fire burning above CSU San Marcos, on May 14, 2014

The Cocos Fire, previously known as the Twin Oaks Fire,[36] was a wildfire that ignited on May 14 in San Marcos, in the hills south of California State University, San Marcos.[8] The Cocos Fire quickly spread into western Escondido. The fire destroyed more than 40 buildings, including a dozen single-family homes.[37] Property damage from the fire is estimated at more than $5.7 million. Three minor injuries were reported.[38] The Cocos Fire was finally extinguished on May 22, 2014.[9]

Freeway Fire[edit]

Another wildfire, the Freeway Fire also started at the Naval Weapons Station area of Camp Pendleton. It was first reported at 5:43 PM on May 14. On May 16, the fire was 100% contained, after it had burned 56 acres (23 ha).[2][19]

Aurora Fire[edit]

On May 14, at about 5:20 PM PDT, the Aurora Fire broke out near Interstate 8-Business and Aurora Drive, in Lakeside, prompting evacuation orders for the area around the fire. At around 7:40 PM PDT on the same day, the fire was 100% contained after it had reached a size of 17 acres (6.9 ha), and all evacuation orders in the area were lifted.[2][20]

Pulgas Fire[edit]

The Pulgas Fire burning above Camp Pendleton at night, on May 16, 2014
A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter from Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar releases water from a bambi bucket during aerial firefighting efforts on the Pulgas fire at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton Calif., May 15, 2014.

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 quickly 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 14,416 acres (5,834 ha) of land, before it was fully contained on May 21.[1][21]

San Mateo Fire[edit]

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) and all non-essential personnel were ordered to be sent home.[39] Evacuation orders were given to personnel in nearby areas of the base including some housing facilities and a school.[40] The San Mateo fire ended up burning a total of 1,457 acres (5.90 km2) of land. Late on May 20, the San Mateo Fire was reported to be 100% contained.[1]

Other fires[edit]

An unnamed small brushfire started in the backyard of a home on Bear Valley Parkway in Escondido, at about 2 PM PDT 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.[41] The fire destroyed one outbuilding and several vehicles. Fire crews were able to extinguish the blaze by 2:45 PM,[42] after it had burned a total of 1 acre (0.40 ha) of land.[20]

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 14, small brush fires also broke out in Lakeside and Scripps Ranch which were extinguished without causing structural damage or injuries.[43]

Later on May 14, another small brush fire broke out in Poway, south of Painted Rock Elementary School, but was quickly extinguished.[44]

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,[35] and ultimately, no charges were filed against the suspects.[45]

During the evening of May 15, a brush fire broke out close to Interstate 805 in National City near 45th Street; it was extinguished in about an hour.[46]

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.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "2014 Archived Fires". CAL FIRE. July 6, 2017. Archived from the original on November 13, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "May 2014 San Diego County Wildfires - After Action Report" (PDF). County of San Diego. Office of Emergency Services, County of San Diego. June 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c London, Christina (May 15, 2014). "Body Found in Ashes of Carlsbad Fire". NBC 7 San Diego. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  4. ^ Summers, Dave (May 19, 2014). "Fire Investigations Pooled into 1 Task Force". NBC San Diego. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
  5. ^ "Map: Wildfires Burning in San Diego County". NBC San Diego. May 16, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  6. ^ Pamer, Melissa (May 16, 2014). "Smoke From San Diego Fires Prompts Advisory, 911 Calls in L.A., O.C". KTLA. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  7. ^ Garske, Monica (May 14, 2014). "Fire in Fallbrook, Bonsall Area Threatens Homes". NBC San Diego. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  8. ^ a b "California Wildfires: Homes Burn in Carlsbad; Flames Threaten Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton". The Weather Channel. Archived from the original on May 15, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Cocos Fire Incident Information". CAL FIRE. May 22, 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  10. ^ Figueroa, Teri; Winkley, Lyndsay (May 19, 2014). "Fires in North County closer to being out". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  11. ^ Repard, Pauline (May 24, 2014). "County estimates wildfire costs at nearly $60 million". San Diego Union Tribune. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Jacumba Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  13. ^ "Bernardo Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  14. ^ "Tomahawk Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  15. ^ "Poinsettia Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  16. ^ "Highway Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  17. ^ "River Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  18. ^ "Cocos Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  19. ^ a b "Freeway Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  20. ^ a b c Debbi Baker; Pauline Repard; Kristina Davis; Susan Shroder (May 15, 2014). "9 fires burn 9,000 acres in county". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  21. ^ a b "Pulgas Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  22. ^ "San Mateo Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  23. ^ a b "Crews Gain Quick Control Of Brush Fire In Santee". KPBS. May 17, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  24. ^ "Bernardo Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 2, 2015.
  25. ^ Garske, Monica (June 4, 2014). "New Details Released on Cause of Bernardo Fire". NBC San Diego. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  26. ^ "Tomahawk Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved September 5, 2015.
  27. ^ "San Diego Wildfires: Crews Fight Flames In San Marcos, Carlsbad and Camp Pendleton". May 15, 2014. Archived from the original on May 15, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  28. ^ Garske, Monica (May 19, 2014). "Update: San Diego Fires". NBC San Diego. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  29. ^ Figueroa, Terry (July 10, 2014). "Officials: juvenile started Cocos blaze". San Diego Union Tribune. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  30. ^ "Highway Fire Incident Information". CAL FIRE. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  31. ^ "Cost of Highway Fire adjusted again to $916,692". Fallbrook Bonsall Village News. May 20, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  32. ^ "Highway Fire Fully Contained After Burning Almost 400 Acres". KPBS. May 16, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  33. ^ "Evacuations after brush fire breaks out in Oceanside". ABC 10 News. May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  34. ^ Trageser, Claire (May 14, 2014). "Evacuations Ordered Near Andrew Jackson Street Due To Oceanside Fire". KPBS. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  35. ^ a b Stickney, R. (May 17, 2014). "Man Facing Arson Charges in San Luis Rey Riverbed Fire". NBC San Diego. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  36. ^ "Brush fires break out and spread in northern San Diego County". Los Angeles Times. May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  37. ^ "20+ Buildings Lost in Cocos Fire". 7 San Diego. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
  38. ^ "Fire Coverage: Cocos Fire, San Marcos". CBS 8. May 20, 2014. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
  39. ^ Third fire breaks out at Camp Pendleton near Basilone Road, ABC 10 news, May 16, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  40. ^ Ramsey, Debbie (May 16, 2014). "New Talega Fire on Camp Pendleton burning - causing evacuation of 62 Area, San Onofre housing area, School of Infantry". Fallbrook-Bonsall Village News. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  41. ^ Page, Eric S. (May 14, 2014). "Home Burned, Evacs Ordered in Escondido". NBC San Diego. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  42. ^ "Crews put out Escondido brush fire". ABC 10 News. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  43. ^ "Lakeside, Scripps Ranch Fires Quickly Knocked Down". KPBS. May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  44. ^ "Poway City Council". May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  45. ^ Perry, Tony (May 20, 2014). "No arson charges for man arrested during San Diego County wildfires". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  46. ^ "Brush Fire Sparks Near National City". NBC7 News. May 15, 2014.

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