Over the last 15 years, several fires have affected the island's ecosystems. In July 1999, a 300-acre fire caused by an escaped illegal campfire burned several oak and ironwood groves above Goat Harbor. Countless other shrubs that offer wildlife food and shelter were also lost. Ironwoods are a particular concern due to their very limited range. These trees are found primarily on northeast facing slopes on Catalina Island and nowhere else in the world.
Then, in January 2003, an electrical line snapped near the Airport-in-the-Sky in a fierce windstorm causing a wildland fire that burned for two days and caused 120 acres of damage. Luckily, two soaking rains a few days earlier had spurred brush and trees to sprout less flammable fresh green foliage.
The island was fire-free until 2006 when an accidental fire started at the Middle Ranch/Airport Road junction. Luckily, this only burned 2.6 acres of chaparral. Then, a storm blew through later that year, and lightning caused two additional fires, burning a couple of acres in Bulrush Canyon and 1,000 acres in the Empire Landing area. The Empire Fire was the largest in the island’s history until an accidental fire burned 4,760 acres in 2007.
Since 2007, there have been 5 fires all of which were caused by humans: plane crashes, a downed power line, and a spark during brush clearance. Their sizes range from 0.1 to 117 acres.
Currently, about 10 percent of Catalina Island is recovering from fires, and the Conservancy works diligently to ensure that this recovery is as complete as possible. Click here for additional information about fire on Catalina.
Click here to view a map of the island fires.