High temperatures, drought and gusty winds combined in a dangerous, flammable combination in southern California and northwestern Mexico, bringing a dramatic start to the 2014 fire season. At least 9 fires broke out in San Diego County, California between May 14 – 16, and several more burned in northwestern Mexico.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over the region on May 15 and captured this true-color image of the fires. Large red hotspots indicated areas where the thermal bands on the instrument detected high temperatures, indicative of fire. Smoke plumes rise from the hotspots and blow to the west. Although the plumes were relatively short when this image was captured, a curling blanket of smoke can be seen hovering far out over the Pacific Ocean, driven there by severely gusting Santa Ana winds.
Nine fires burned out of control in San Diego County starting on May 14. At least 47 homes were destroyed, with losses reported at over $20 million. One person has been suspected of dying in the wildfires.
As of May 21, only three of the San Diego County fires remained active. CAL FIRE reported that the Cocos Fire had burned 1,995 acres and destroyed 36 single family dwellings and 1 non-residential commercial building, and was 96% contained. The Pulgas Fire and the San Mateo Fire, both on military property and fought by the Camp Pendelton Fire Department with assistance from CAL FIRE, had consumed 14, 416 acres and 1,457 acres and both were 99% contained. Current emphasis there was on mop-up operations. Full containment of all fires was expected on May 22. The cause of the fires is still under investigation.