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The Region | SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRES

State's Data Show That This Season's Blazes Were Most Destructive on Record

November 27, 2003|Jia-Rui Chong | Times Staff Writer

This season's fires consumed more land and more buildings than any others on record, according to new statistics from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Cedar fire in San Diego County burned more acreage than any in the state's history, breaking a record set in 1932, officials said.

The Cedar fire scorched about 273,000 acres. In 1932, the Matilija fire in Ventura County burned about 220,000 acres. The Cedar fire also destroyed 2,820 buildings.

As of Monday, about 989,000 acres across California had burned this year, topping the previous record year, 1987, when fires charred 780,000 acres on mostly wild land.

More than 4,800 structures were lost this year. The previous record was 1991, the year of the Oakland fire, when almost 3,000 structures were lost.

The state counted 22 fatalities this fire season, just under the record of 25 in the Oakland fire.

State fire spokeswoman Karen Terrill said that this season began with a policy statement warning firefighters and management that there was an extraordinary health and safety risk this year. "Everything was so ready to burn," she said, because of four years of drought, a beetle infestation that killed tens of thousands of pines, and the density of weak and dying trees in the state's forests.

Fire season has ended in Northern and Central California but not in all areas of Southern California.

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