Lilac Fire report credits preparedness, resources with quickly stopping fire

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Fire officials and city leaders credit timely preparation and resources for helping to knock down the fast-moving Lilac Fire last December.

In an after-action report released Friday, the county said the massive show of firefighting effort and management, and a break in the weather, helped to contain the fire's spread within 12 hours.

"However, as destructive and disruptive as the disaster was, it could have become much larger and destroyed thousands of homes," the report stated.


County officials also praised the response of fire and emergency personnel as "second-to-none" and "spontaneous care and generosity of residents made the Lilac Fire response and ongoing recovery efforts a success."

The county also released a list of recommendations based on the response to the fire, which stated in part:

  • County Office of Emergency Services (OES) needs more staff preparation, training, and specific individuals assigned ahead of time for positions;
  • Health and Human Services staff at OES needed to assess needs of affected hospitals and housing facilities;
  • San Diego County to work with federal officials to improve emergency alert system texts;
  • Stress test county technology and 211 system;
  • Formal planning to define local and state roles;
  • Annual training between OES and Red Cross to provide training and materials on how shelters are coordinated to fire and law enforcement;
  • Identify additional locations for horses and livestock if Del Mar training grounds is full

The full Lilac Fire after-action report can be viewed online.

Officials estimate fire and emergency response cost about $5 million, which will be offset by state and federal reimbursement. The fire marked the county's first use of the federal Wireless Emergency Alert system.


Flames broke out on Dec. 7, 2017, just after 11 a.m. near Interstate 15 and State Route 76 in Bonsall. Santa Ana winds and dry conditions fanned the blaze, driving the fire west.

More than 1,300 residents were forced to evacuate to nearby shelters in Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, and Carlsbad, and as far away as El Cajon.

By the fire's end on Dec. 13, 4,100 acres across North San Diego County were scorched, two people were injured by burns, 114 homes were destroyed and 55 others were damaged, and more than 45 horses were killed.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation

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