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Southern Califorina's Worst Brush Fires

History of some of the California Wildfires

Cedar Fire

2003 was the worst fire season to date on the west coast of North America until 2012 and 2013 past it.
The Cedar Fire was a huge man-made wildfire which burned out of control through a large area of San Diego County in October 2003. Pushed by seasonal hot and dry Santa Ana Winds, the brush fire burned 280,278 acres and 2,820 structures (including 2,232 homes) and had killed 15 people including one firefighter before being contained on November 3rd, making it the largest fire on recorded in California history up to that time. The Cedar Fire was one of fifteen wild fires throughout Southern California that windy month, including the Old Fire, which became known as the "2003 firestorm" and the "Fire Siege of 2003. Large insurance claims occurred in 2003 due to the many fires that hit expensive home areas during this very dry and windy period.

Bel Air-Brentwood Fire

Time: Morning November 6th 1961
Acres: 6,090 acres
Property: 484 homes, 21 other out structure buildings.
Cause: Believed to be a accidental fire.

The Bel Air fire of 1961 was a landmark fire. It was, and still is, one of the worst home and structure fires for the county of Los Angeles. Many changes where adopted after this brush fire. Shingle roofs caused many houses to catch on fire. Now most homes are built with composite or tile roofs. Many other changes where adopted after this fire. Also, area home owners realized that they needed to be insured for both wild fires and mudslides which followed the hill clearing brush fires in the winter.

The San Diego Area Laguna Fire

The Laguna Fire, previously known as the Kitchen Creek Fire and the Boulder Oaks Fire, was, at its time, the largest wildfire in the history of California.
The Laguna fire was started by downed power lines during Santa Ana winds in the Kitchen Creek area of the Laguna Mountains in eastern San Diego County on the morning of September 26, 1970. In only 24 hours it burned westward about thirty miles to the outskirts of El Cajon and Spring Valley. The fire devastated the communities of Harbison Canyon and Crest. In the end the fire burned 175,425 acres and 382 homes killing eight people.

Note: The Laguna Fire was surpassed as the largest fire in California history by the 280,278 acre Cedar Fire in October 2003, and the July 2007 Zaca Fire which burned 240,207 remote acres in Santa Barbara County.

The Malibu Area Old Topanga Fire

The worst wild fire that has ever hit the Malibu and the Topanga area.

Total acreage: 16,516
Structures destroyed.- SingleandMultiplefamily-37
Detached garages - 15
Mobile homes - 12
Vehicles damaged 11 Vehicles destroyed: 92
Total Private Property fire insured and uninsured damage Value Loss $208,484,786

The Panorama Fire, San Bernardino County

Time: November 24th 1980
Acres: 23,800 acres
Property: 280 homes destroyed, 49 homes damaged, 64 other structures destroyed insured and uninsured fire damage.
Cause: Arson
Injuries: 4 civilian deaths, 77 injuries

The 1993 Laguna Beach "Laguna Fire"

The 14,337 acre 1993 Laguna Beach fire burned all the way to the pacific ocean destroying 441 homes in it's path. The fire burned very fast down the parallel canyons with nothing to stop it but the ocean. Many of these insured dwellings were rebuilt with much better fire retardant materials that also help keep fire insurance cost down.

The 1966 Loop fire

The Loop fire was one of the most tragic fires in cost of human life in California history.

On November 1, 1966, the El Cariso Hotshots, a U.S. Forest Service Wild-land Firefighting Crews, were trapped by high flames as they worked on a steep hillside in Pacoima Canyon on the Angeles National Forest. Ten members of the crew perished on the Loop Fire that day. Another two members died from severe burn injuries in the following days. Most of the nineteen members who survived were horribly burned and remained hospitalized for a long time.

Many lessons were learned with this fire. Better training on how fires move and act, and better equipment came out of this disaster.

Source: U.S. Forest Service
Disclaimer: Data source USDA. Use this map and borders for reference only. CCCarto is not responsible for data errors or omissions.