SAN DIEGO — Wednesday marks 20 years since the devastating Cedar Fire ripped through San Diego.
October 25, 2003, is a day etched into the minds of so many San Diegans.
The Cedar Fire impacted the lives of thousand of people, and changed the way our local officials fight fires.
At the time, the Cedar Fire was the largest wildfire in California History.
“I remember that day so vividly clear,” said Bob Ilko, a Scripps Ranch resident and president of the Scripps Ranch Civic Association. “It was a war zone.”
The fire killed 15 people, burned about 280,000 acres and destroyed 2,800 buildings, including 312 homes in Scripps Ranch.
Ilko talked with FOX 5 and showed the damage. He pointed out one street, Pinecastle, where all of the homes, but for one, burned down.
“That was quite the shock,” Ilko said. “It was hell for Scripps Ranch and it’s something that we weren’t really prepared for as a community.”
On the date, 20 years later, the agencies involved in the Cedar Fire got together Wednesday afternoon and held a press conference to talk about the devastation and share the advancements made since the fire.
“That was one of the times we realized we were much smaller than the event coming our way,” said San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell. “This was certainly a tragic day for our region and for our city, it taught us some valuable lessons.”
According to fire officials, agencies in San Diego County have invested more than $800 million to better prepare to fight fires. The agencies said they are better equipped now, with alert systems, more than 100 cameras to monitor for potential wildfires and helicopters to fight fires (now 24/7, even through the night, something they couldn’t do in 2003).
“I think that if we were going to have that same fire today, we would have better results,” Talbot Hayes, Chief of Cleveland National Forest, said in an interview with FOX 5.
Ilko said he estimates about half of the residents of Scripps Ranch that were here at the time of the fire, have since moved away.
“A community isn’t the houses, it’s the people that live in those houses,” Ilko added.
Fire officials were adamant that San Diego will see another devastating fire, and wants everyone to be prepared, talk to your family and have a plan.