San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection[BRCC San Diego Natural History Museum: Herpetology Department]

Birds and Mammals
Post-fire Studies

 -Species Tables
 -Species Graphs
 -Species Groupings
 -Census Routes
     Pines Fire Table
     Pines Fire Map
     Cuyamaca Map
     Cedar Fire Table
     Cedar Fire Map

 -Coastal Sage      Rodents

Field Guide

Phil Unitt
fax: 619.232.0248

Post-Fire Studies

In 2002 and 2003, over 1500 square miles of southern California burned in firestorms unequaled for over a century, the largest fires since accurate records have been kept. Because of the fires’ unprecedented size, their effects on the ecosystem were unknown and unpredictable. Over 738 square miles burned in San Diego County alone, 17.4% of the county’s total area and nearly 25% of the area still covered by natural vegetation. The Cedar fire of October 2003 alone burned 436.4 square miles and was the single most pervasive disaster in San Diego history. The fires killed 17 people, compelled the evacuation of thousands, burned 2454 houses, blanketed the region under dense smoke for a week, and shut the business of the city of San Diego down for two days.

Map showing the areas burned in San Diego County in 2002 and 2003.
Areas burned in San Diego County in 2002 and 2003
Joint Fire Science Program.

These wildfires also reignited the debate among resource managers, politicians, scientists, and the public about the strategies appropriate for people to live in the fire-prone ecosystems of southern California. This debate among vegetation and fire ecologists began in the early 1980s (Keeley 1982, Minnich 1982, Minnich and Chou 1996, Keeley 2002) but has now sprung to the forefront of the public eye and resource managers’ needs.