The Witch Fire of 2007

I chose this particular hazard because I was actually living San Diego at the time this fire was occurring and got a week off school because the air quality was deemed too poor for the school system to make the students go.

The fire itself lasted from October 21st, 2007 to November 6th, 2007. Figure 1 at the bottom of the document is a map of the area affected by the fire. The effects of the fire are listed below (Cal Fire, 2007):

  • Nearly 200,000 thousand acres of land were burned throughout the duration of the wildfire in San Diego County.
  • Highway 78 was closed from Ramon to Escondido—both localities within San Diego County—due to damage from the fires.
  • Overall, 1,125 residential structures and 509 outbuildings were completely destroyed.
  • 77 residential structures and 25 outbuildings were damaged.
  • By the culmination of the fire, 224 firefighters were involved in combating it with 25 total engines.
  • 40 of these firefighters were injured
  • There were only 2 total fatalities, both were civilians
  • Responsible for the largest evacuation in the history of San Diego County with more than 500,000 people living in the areas that were evacuated.
  • The total cost in damages to the city itself eventually got up to roughly $18 million.

It is important to understand that this wildfire system was not the only one raging in Southern California at the time. The conditions that contributed to the Witch fire, which included periods of extremely high winds that some reported to be up to 100 mph in certain places, also gave rise to at least 21 other blazes throughout Southern California. Because of this, resources had to be distributed throughout the state and the ability to effectively fight fires in any given area was greatly diminished. There was actually another called the Harris Fire in the more southern portion of San Diego County that was significantly smaller than the Witch but ended up being responsible for 5 total deaths. Those who evacuated were initially held in places like Qualcomm Stadium (where the Chargers play) and high schools outside of the dangerous areas. It is difficult to tell how long people remained in places like this, especially if they were among those who had their homes destroyed by fire.

John Gibbins aerial of fire around Scripps Ranch area.



  1. I find it extremely interesting how the reason you chose this case study is because you had somehow experienced the Witch Fire since you were living in San Diego at the time! This seemed like a heartbreaking disaster that had caused lots of damages and injuries. The visual that you had posted with this summary is extremely helpful in actually seeing how crazy the fire was. Thankfully there seemed to only have been two casualties and that the brunt of the fire took out residential structures and buildings which is obviously better than the people who were living there at the time.

    Celine Chassagneux

  2. I chose my case study because it was one that directly impacted me as well. I thought your discussion of the additional wildfires burning in the area at the same time, and how that affected the fighting of this one. It’s crazy to think of the sheer scale of the firefighting effort here, and how many individuals were involved. Your visuals really added an additional scare-factor, and put this disaster into perspective.

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