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Witch Fire

The Witch Fire (also known as the Witch Creek Fire) was the second largest wildfire of the 2007 California wildfire season. Hundreds of thousands of residents were informed of evacuations through the Reverse 911 system.[3] This evacuation came almost four years to the day after the Cedar Fire of 2003.

Witch Fire
Red Sky at Morning San Diego 22 Oct 2007 v2.jpg
Smoke filled the sky at sunrise October 22, 2007
Location Witch Creek, San Diego, California
Cost $1.018 billion[1][2]
Date(s) October 21 – November 6, 2007
Burned area 197,990 acres (801 km2)[1]
1,125 residential structures
509 outbuildings
Fatalities 2 civilians
Injuries 40 firefighters
San Diego skyline against the smoke at sunrise October 23, 2007.

The fire started in Witch Creek Canyon near Santa Ysabel and quickly spread to San Diego Country Estates, Ramona, Rancho Bernardo, Poway and Escondido. Locals in the San Pasqual Valley area reported wind gusts of over 100 mph (160 km/h). From there the fire jumped over Interstate 15 and continued west, causing significant damage in Lake Hodges, Del Dios and Rancho Santa Fe.

Strong Santa Ana winds pushed the fires west towards the coast.[3] San Diego County Sheriff William B. Kolendar stated that the Witch Creek Fire could be "well in excess of the Cedar Fire of 2003".[4] While many coastal communities were evacuated as the fire moved west, the shifting winds prevented it from directly threatening those areas.

Residents located between the Del Dios Highway and State Route 56 were ordered to evacuate.[3] By 9:30 p.m. on October 22, a dispatch from the city of Del Mar's web site stated "For your safety, we are strongly advising that all Del Mar residents evacuate."[5] Evacuations were also ordered for Scripps Ranch neighborhood, specifically "Everything south of Scripps Poway Parkway, north of MCAS Miramar, east of Interstate 15, and west of Highway 67". The Mesa Grande Indian Reservation was evacuated due to the Witch Fire.[6] Residents of the Barona Indian Reservation were advised to leave, though the evacuation was not mandatory. The casino on the reservation was closed. At approximately 01:00 on 23 October, fire broke out near Wildcat Canyon to the south of Barona, where many houses were destroyed and lives lost in the Cedar Fire. Residents of Wildcat Canyon and Muth Valley were ordered to evacuate, and the road was closed.[7] The evacuations of Del Mar, Chula Vista, Poway, Del Mar Heights and Scripps Ranch were lifted for many residents on Tuesday October 23 in the late afternoon.[8] At 9:50 p.m. PDT October 23, 2007, the town of Julian, California was ordered to evacuate. Due to the fires, there was no power or phone service in the town.[9]

Evacuation sites included Qualcomm Stadium, Escondido High School, Mission Hills High School, Poway High School, Mira Mesa Senior High School, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds.[3][10]

Many major roads were also closed as a result of fires and smoke. On October 22, the California Highway Patrol closed Interstate 15 in both directions between State Routes 78 and 56.[3] On October 24, 2007 the Horno Fire forced the closure of Interstate 5 as well as the Amtrak Surfliner service between Oceanside and San Clemente.[11] Traffic from Interstate 5 was being diverted to Interstate 15, which had reopened.[12] 1,841 firefighters were assigned to the fire.

In addition to the costs of fighting the fire, the Witch Fire is estimated to have cost more than $1 billion in insured damages.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Witch Fire". CAL FIRE. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Roberts, Jacob (2015). "The Best of Intentions". Distillations. Chemical Heritage Foundation. 1 (2): 38–39. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Martinez, Angelica and Greg Gros (October 22, 2007). "Witch fire roars west across Rancho Bernardo and Poway". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  4. ^ Martinez, Angelica and Tony Manolatos (October 22, 2007). "Wildfires seen as eclipsing the Cedar fire of 2003". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  5. ^ "Voluntary evacuation in place for all of Del Mar". San Diego Union Tribune. October 22, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  6. ^ "Mesa Grande Indian reservation was evacuated". San Diego Union Tribune. October 22, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  7. ^ "Three major fires still burning out of control". San Diego Union Tribune. October 23, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  8. ^ "Evacuation orders lifted for some San Diego neighborhoods". San Jose Mercury News. 12 October 2007. Retrieved 22 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "Mandatory evacuations in Julian". San Diego Union Tribune. October 23, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  10. ^ H.G. Reza, Jill Leovy and Alex Pham (October 24, 2007). "Scale of the fires' disruption on display at San Diego stadium". LA Times. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  11. ^ "Camp Pendleton fire spread to 6,000 Acres". San Diego Union Tribune. October 24, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  12. ^ "Traffic diverting to north I-15". San Diego Union Tribune. October 24, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-24.