10th anniversary of Cedar Fire remembered

SAN DIEGO – Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the start of the Cedar Fire, which killed 15 people and became the most destructive in the history of the state.

On Friday, city and county officials and firefighters will discuss the Oct. 25, 2003, wildfire at an event in Scripps Ranch where first responders will share memories. The fire scorched more than 273,000 acres and destroyed more than 2,200 homes before it was quenched weeks later.

The blaze started on a blistering hot fall day between Ramona and Julian when a lost hunter started a signal fire. The hunter was airlifted to safety, but the fire spread in hard-to-access terrain.

The fire consumed about 10 acres by sundown and remained relatively small well into the night. But strong Santa Ana winds sprung up after midnight, sweeping flames into Wildcat Canyon — between Lakeside and Ramona.

Most of the deaths occurred in and around the canyon area, many as the victims attempted to escape. Survivors later told of waking up to flames already on their properties.

Another finger of the fire raced into Scripps Ranch, where flames fed by combustible eucalyptus trees ravaged several neighborhoods. The westward march of flames went about halfway down the length of the runway at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar before they were stopped.

When the Santa Ana winds died down — replaced by a sea breeze — the flames roared east, devastating small mountain communities near Julian and Lake Cuyamaca and killing firefighter Steven Rucker, of the Novato Fire Department north of San Francisco. Rucker was one of hundreds of fire personnel from throughout the state dispatched to battle the Cedar Fire.

The East County mountains bear scars from the fire to this day, from denuded hillsides to huge stands of gray, broken trees standing on slopes near Lake Cuyamaca.

As bad as the Cedar Fire was, firefighters also had to deal with destructive blazes around the same time in Valley Center, east of Chula Vista and Camp Pendleton.

Another Santa Ana-driven firestorm broke out four years later when an electrical line fell. The blaze, now known as the Witch Creek Fire, then barreled into Rancho Bernardo, where hundreds of homes were destroyed. Several other wildfires broke in the area that fall.

For the Cedar Fire anniversary, no Santa Ana winds are predicted by the National Weather Service despite warmer temperatures expected heading into the weekend.

12 Responses to "10th anniversary of Cedar Fire remembered"

  1. Me   October 25, 2013 at 7:01 am

    A lost ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT hunter who had no business being here in the first place.

  2. Lee   October 25, 2013 at 10:54 am

    "Another finger of the fire raced into Scripps Ranch, where flames fed by combustible eucalyptus trees ravaged several neighborhoods."

    My dear fellow Fallbrookers, may I once again persuade you to PLEASE eradicate ALL Eucalyptus and pine trees from Fallbrook once and for all. Both trees absolutely serve NO ecological purpose in SoCal’s basins whatsoever. None. Let’s cut them down and make Fallbrook as fire safe as we can. Thank you.

  3. Redneck Bill   October 26, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Hey Me,

    I trust everything you say because you’ve told us you were a police officer on the East Coast. Policemen, priests, Republicans and East Coast policemen never lie. I accept that.

    But as I searched for information about the man who started the Cedar Fire, I was unable to find anything that said he was an illegal immigrant. However, his last name is Martinez. Please tell me you didn’t read his last name and jump to the conclusion he was illegal.

    That would just send all the credibility you’ve worked so hard to establish up in smoke.

  4. Enough already   October 27, 2013 at 7:27 am

    The real story here is the fact nothing has changed. Big fire burns homes ten years ago, another big fire burns homes six years ago. More big fires will burn homes in the future. There have been many suggestions of using available resources (military and trained volunteers) to fight these fires, but the firefighter’s unions have blocked all of them. The unions want a huge regiment of very high priced firefighters at the ready 24/7. If the county can’t afford it, let the homes burn. They have the politicians in their pocket, so that is just the way it is going to be. Too bad. Keep that in mind when you vote. Don’t vote for politicians that have been bought by any unions.

  5. DR DR   October 28, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Redneck Bill-I remember the story well. It was an illegal immigrant in the canyon, living in a tent, built a fire because he was a bit chilly and it was the start of the huge fire.

    The 07 fire was an electrical fire, some are arson. This fire was started by being stupid.

  6. Redneck Bill   October 28, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    DR DR

    I think we’re talking about different stories. Or maybe your memory is as bad as mine.

    Google Sergio Martinez/Cedar Fire and see what you find.

    The info I found said the guy was a hunter from West Covina who got separated from his hunting partner, some guy with a white sounding name–Adkins. Martinez started a signal fire that got out of control and became the Cedar Fire.

    I’m white, Christian, Republican and old, so it’s my purpose in life to blame everything Mexicans, just like you. But facts are facts.

  7. Pink   October 29, 2013 at 11:41 am

    RB, you are correct. The Cedar Fire was started by a lost hunter, Mr. Martinez was not an illegal alien, he just wasn’t very bright. There have been fires that were started by illegal aliens, trying to keep warm or cook, but not this one. I’m also white, Christian (not young) female. However, I am not a racist so I do not blame everything on Mexicans. Stupidity is an equal opportunity malady.

  8. Redneck Bill   October 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I hope you have come to realize I respect you and your opinions. Although I see many thing differently, I still look forward to the day when you and Mr. Pink and me and Mrs. Redneck can sit down and have a drink. You think you feel sorry for my wife now. Ha.

    If I were a better Christian, I would just stay completely away from this site. In fact the priest told me to do just that. But in the evening after dinner, if I’m not reading a book, or there’s no sports on TV, or nothing good on the History, Nat Geo, Discovery or Military channels, I turn to the comment section of the Village News. And when I read things that blame one group for no apparent reason, I chime in.

    If we look at History, Hitler rose to power in part by stirring resentment of Jews. I don’t want to sit idly by while the same thing is done to my Mexican brothers in Christ. And so I respond in my wise acre way. It just gets old, seeing the same thing over and over, raging on Mexicans. Assuming they’re the bad guys. That every problem is caused by them.

  9. Pink   October 30, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Love it RB!! The priest told me the same thing, that is why I have been off the site for awhile, guess I have some Hail Mary’s coming…. (-: Mr. Pink and I would love to have a drink with you and Mrs Redneck. Do you two ever come down to the VFW? They have great Friday night dinners!!

    I also get hot under the collar about racism. I hate it, always have. I guess what bothers me the most is that lots of liberals like to call ALL Republicans racists or gay bashers, it simply isn’t true, just like all liberals are certainly not communists. The good news is that we live in a country where we are allowed to argue politics and religion without fear of reprisal (so far).

  10. Redneck Bill   October 31, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Wow. You’re only going to get a few Hail Mary’s? He told me to just start saying rosaries and come back in a month. That’s more than the time I…, well, never mind. I guess he must have read some of my posts.

    I’ve suggested dinner at the VFW in the past, but haven’t gotten too far. I’ll try again. Hopefully we’ll make it down there one of these Fridays. We have one of those non traditional, modern marriages where the wife makes all the decisions. I always get a chuckle out of the, "wives be submissive to your husbands" Gospel, because that sure doesn’t fly here.

  11. Pink   October 31, 2013 at 9:01 am

    @RB: I think that your wife and I would get along famously!! Mr. Pink and I have the same arrangement. LOL. I’m afraid that I am submissive only to the Lord, and I’m blessed to have a husband who understands that, and me.

  12. Sandra Millers Younger   December 23, 2013 at 3:12 am

    Enough already: Actually, CAL FIRE has worked hard since the Cedar Fire to establish joint fire-fighting operations with the military, which have been up and running for several years. Also, Sergio Martinez is an American citizen. For more on him and the entire Cedar Fire story, I invite you to read my book The Fire Outside My Window: A Survivor Tells the True Story of California’s Epic Cedar Fire.


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