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Day Fire

Day Fire
Day Fire as seen via MODIS satellite on September 19.
Location Los Padres National Forest, Ventura County, California
Cost Steven Emory Butcher
Date(s) September 4, 2006 (2006-09-04) – October 13, 2006 (2006-10-13)
Burned area 162,702 acres (658 km2)
Cause Arson
Perpetrator(s) Steven Emory Butcher

The Day Fire was a devastating wildfire that burned 162,702 acres (658 km2) of land in Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County, California. The fire, which was the largest of the 2006 California wildfire season remains the 3rd largest fire in California history.[2] The fire started on Labor Day September 4, 2006 and by October 1 had cost $70.3 million, and at one point had 4,600 active firefighters.[3]

The Day Fire burned approximately 162,702 acres of both National Forest (97.4%) and privately owned lands.[2] The fire started on the Ojai Ranger District, in the Congressionally Designated Wilderness known as the Sespe Wilderness, in Ventura County. The Sespe Wilderness is under the Federal jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service. In addition to the land burned in the wilderness area, 1,943 acres (8 km2) of private land was burned in Lockwood Valley and the Mutau Flat area. A total of eleven structures were reported destroyed including one residence and ten outbuildings.


Day Fire, near Old Hwy 99 September 12, 2007 burns behind the Texas Canyon Hotshots.

The Day Fire was determined to be human caused. Specifically, a debris burn consisting of clothing, ammunition and other items were illegally ignited during fire restrictions. Ignited material coming out of the debris burn came in contact with surrounding dry grasses, causing a wildland fire to occur. On September 7, 2006, Steven Butcher walked out of the Day Fire with burns to his face. Butcher’s statements to responding officials and Forest Service investigators place him at scene when the fire initially started. Additionally, Butcher’s statements describe how the fire first burned. Those statements closely resemble where Forest Service fire investigators placed the fire origin and how the fire initially spread.

In 2009, Butcher was found guilty of starting the fire. At his trial, Butcher stated "I threw a cigarette butt or two on the pile. I tried everything to put it out. I'm afraid of fire. I hid up there for days afterward watching the animals running scared around me."[1] Before sentencing, District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank said that Butcher clearly loved nature but suffers from paranoid schizophrenia as well as both depression and alcoholism, She ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation so as to determine whether he should ever be released from custody.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Schizophrenic Transient Ordered to Pay $101M for Starting 2006 Day Fire".  
  2. ^ a b c "Top 20 Largest California Wildfires" (PDF).  
  3. ^ Schoch, Deborah (October 2, 2006). "A Ribbon Cut Stubborn Day Fire Down to Size".  
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