The Cedar Fire, Sunday on Dateline

Sunday night, March 8, NBC’s “Dateline” will feature the Cedar Fire, the largest wildfire in the recorded history of California. In the one-hour episode of a three-part disaster series called “Escape,” narrator Josh Elliott visits the scene and interviews 14 survivors whose lives have been changed forever.

In 2003 the fire burned over 273,000 acres in San Diego County. During the first night on October 25, the fast moving fire driven by a strong northeast wind killed 14 people east of San Diego in Wildcat Canyon and Eucalyptus Hills who had little or no warning. Eight of those killed died while they were evacuating. The fire destroyed 2,232 homes in San Diego, Alpine, Harbison Canyon, Crest, Cuyamaca, Julian, and Santa Ysabel.

While trying to defend a house near Santa Ysabel, fire Captain Steven Rucker, 38, from the Novato Fire Department was overrun by the fire and killed on October 29, becoming the 15th victim.

Map of Cedar and Laguna Fires
Map of Cedar and Laguna Fires, east of San Diego, California. USFS map by Corey Ferguson. (click to enlarge)

Below is a very interesting animation of the spread of the Cedar Fire, which was initially pushed by very strong Santa Ana winds blowing from the northeast and east.

(The animation is no longer available)

Largest California fires
The 20 largest fires in the recorded history of California. (click to enlarge)

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “The Cedar Fire, Sunday on Dateline”

  1. Has anyone asked the son of the family of 5 that was aired on the 3/8 15 episode, why he didn’t drag his two sisters out of his car and take them with him? I found his story to be extremely disturbing. He stated he didn’t want to second guess why his sister didn’t get out of his car and follow him. It sounds to me like he never bothered to grab their hands and lead them out with him. Very disturbing and even more suspicious.


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