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49'er Fire

September 11, 1988

Many of us were involved in the 49'er fire which burned 33,700 acres and destroyed 312 structures. This webpage shares many memories of what happened during the fire: memories of the firefighters; the community; businesses and residents. It also identifies just how fast the fire moved as the dry conditions and winds aligned.

49’er Fire Statistics


The fire started at approximately 9:05 a.m. on September 11, 1988. It burned 33,700 acres. That's 52 square miles.

Destroyed in the 49'er fire were:

312 Structures

89 Vehicles

17 Boats

There are approximately 4000-4500 homes in the fire perimeter. Of the 148 homes destroyed, 80% were not in compliance with the Public Resource Code 4291 concerning clearance around homes.

During the height of the battle there were:

285 engines

65 dozers

76 handcrews

12 airtankers

8 helicopters

3200 people directly involved

plus an unknown number of locals which assisted indirectly

Aircrafts dropped approx. 300,000 gallons of fire retardant at a then price of $0.58 cents per gallon.

Suppression costs were estimated at 7.5 million dollars. Total dollar lost was estimated at 22.7 million.

Could Another 49'er Fire Happen Here?

Yes! We share these stories with you to illustrate what it was like, and that it can happen again, unless we are all committed to fire safety and defensible space. Considering the already dry conditions, a small spark on a windy day in August could create another 49'er Fire. We strongly urge you to take time to create your evacuation kit, and to develop an evacuation plan with your family and/or neighborhood. Also, be very careful with fire. An unintended spark from your weed-eater, your barbecue, your campfire, or your cigarette, could ignite the next massive wildfire.

From the Fire Chiefs of Nevada County, 2008 Fire Season Guide

49'er Fire slideshow provided by Sean Griffis, CAL Fire

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