In late October 2007, Southern California experienced an unusually severe fire weather event characterized by intense, dry, gusty Santa Ana winds. This weather event drove a series of destructive wildfires that took a devastating toll on people, property, natural resources, and infrastructure. During this siege, 17 people lost their lives, 10 were killed by the fires outright, three were killed while evacuating, and 140 firefighters and an unknown number of civilians were injured. A total of 3,069 homes and other buildings were destroyed, and hundreds more were damaged.
From the after action report: “By dawn of October 22, barely one day into the siege, new fires had ignited in Fallbrook, San Marcos and near the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Twenty thousand homes were without power. Qualcomm Stadium had opened as an evacuation center, and officials there were preparing for as many as 100,000 evacuees. By noon, October 22, the Witch Fire had jumped Interstate-15 and was burning in Poway. San Diego businesses, government offices, and schools began closing.”
More than 350,000 households were evacuated at the height of the siege, meaning the evacuation could have included more than 900,000 people. Bob Kanaski was put in charge of the evacuation center at Qualcomm Stadium, home of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. It was a brilliant move but not without its many challenges. Mr. Kanaski talks about those and how he and his team were able to meet them head-on and win.