California News

Extract from the archives: deadly fires hit San Diego 15 years ago

The first flames were seen on a Sunday morning, October 21, 2007, at 9:23 a.m. near Potrero, just north of the US-Mexico border. Three hours later, downed power lines started the Witch Creek Fire east of Ramona. From October 21 to November 16, flames swept through every corner of San Diego County, burning more than 1,700 homes and killing 10 people.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune, Monday, October 22, 2007:

FOREST FIRES ARE RAGING

County calls for 1,000 more firefighters

By Jeff McDonald, Janine Zuniga and Kristina Davis, Editors

Two wildfires tore through San Diego County yesterday, killing one person, injuring at least 17 others and destroying countless homes and businesses, overstretched fire officials said.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued after 11 p.m. in the San Pasqual Valley, home to San Diego Wildlife Park. Officials said they have teams ready to evacuate some of its hundreds of exotic animals if needed.

Two hours earlier, similar orders had been issued for the backcountry communities of Ramona and nearby San Diego Country Estates as walls of flame reached up to 200 feet high.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in San Diego County and six other Southern California counties late at night. He should visit the area this morning.

Santa Ana winds blowing up to 60 mph combined with temperatures in the 90s to create in the worst possible fire conditions.

Traffic rumbled down roads and highways as residents sought to escape what is known as the Witch’s Fire, which ignited at Witch Creek west of Santa Ysabel. Most schools in the fire area were declared closed today.

Smoke and ash blanketed the area as residents as far apart as Escondido, Lakeside and Poway were warned to be ready to evacuate.

The first fire broke out around 9:30 a.m. 45 miles east of San Diego. He tore through steep canyons and parched hills between the communities of Potrero and Tecate, Mexico.

The blaze, called the Harris Fire because of its proximity to Harris Ranch Road, killed one person and injured more than a dozen others, including four firefighters, officials said. At least four houses were destroyed.

By nightfall, the fire had blackened more than 20,000 acres on both sides of the US-Mexico border, and hundreds of people had fled their homes.

Local officials have requested up to 1,000 additional firefighters from across the state. Although reinforcements rushed south toward San Diego County last night, they weren’t expected to arrive until early this morning.

“The Witch Creek Fire is now the number one concern for the state of California,” said San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman. “Resources are going in that direction. We just don’t know when they will be there.

The fire split into two heads, one directed toward Poway and the other toward the San Pasqual Valley outside of Escondido, Jarman said.

Power lines that were apparently knocked down by strong Santa Ana winds are believed to have started the fire, which started northeast of Ramona around noon.

California Daily Newspapers

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