Gibraltar Fire

The Gibraltar Fire was first reported at 5:15am on Thursday, 29 Oct. 2015. It was said to be fully contained at 6PM on Tuesday, 3 Nov 2015. The burn scar is currently estimated to be about 21 acres (a circle with area 21 acres has a diameter of about 360 yards).

The fire was between Montecito Peak and Camino Cielo, mostly centered on a ridgeline knoll about halfway between the two. The fire was mostly above Cold Spring trail, with a slight spill-over into San Ysidro canyon on the other side. Despite the name the fire is nowhere near Gibraltar Road, rock, or Dam.

On the night of 28/29 Oct. there were high Santa Ana winds (hot, dry, strong) and a red flag warning was issued. By the time the fire was reported the winds had dropped (at least at Inspiration Point), but they were forecast to pick up again in the afternoon. Containment efforts became a race against time, attempting to put the fire out before the winds picked up. Luckily this effort was successful. However continued high winds over the next few days stretched out the time to full containment. The light drizzle on Monday was not enough to be much use.

After the fire the Forest Service continued to work in the area attempting to repair as much damage as possible. This seemed to entail digging drainage ditches in firebreaks and covering them with dead brush in order to reduce erosion.

This area was last burned in the Coyote Fire of 1964, so there has been a lot of fuel build up.

Looking east from the Cold Spring trail at the western edge of Montecito Peak. 3 Nov 2015

Looking east from Cold Spring trail at the western edge of Montecito Peak. 3 Nov 2015

Before & After
Tunnel of shrubs
24 Sept 2009

17 Nov 2015

Species observed before the fire, but within its bounds

Probably all observations were made on Cold Spring trail, on the western border of the fire.

Pellaea andromedifolia Coffee Fern perennial fern
Pellaea mucronata Bird’s Foot Fern perennial fern
Avena sp. Wild Oats annual
Elymus hispidus Intermediate Wheatgrass annual
Tauschia arguta southern tauscia perennial
Baccharis plummerae Plummer’s Baccharis shrub
Hazardia squarrosa sawtooth goldenbush shrub
Pseudognaphalium californicum California pearly everlasting annual, perennial
Madia gracilis slender tarweed annual
Centaurea melitensis Maltese star thistle annual
Centaurea solstitialis Yellow star thistle annual
Rafinesquia californica California Chickory annual
Stephanomeria virgata Tall Stephanomeria annual
Uropappus lindleyi Silver Puffs annual
Lonicera subspicata Chaparral honeysuckle shrub, vine
Garrya flavescense Ashy Silktassel shrub
Salvia apiana white sage shrub
Salvia mellifera black sage shrub
Mimulus aurantiacus sticky monkeyflower shrub
Antirrhinum multiflorum Sticky snapdragon shrub
Keckiella cordifolia Climbing Penstemon shrub
Calystegia purpurata-purpurata Pacific false bindweed vine
Solanum xanti purple nightshade shrub
Cryptantha sp. popcornflower annual
Phacelia brachyloba Short Lobed Phacelia annual
Phacelia distans common phacelia annual
Phacelia grandiflora large flowered phacelia annual
Mentzelia micrantha Stick-Leaf annual
Arctostaphylos glauca great berry manzanita shrub
Allophyllum gilioides Dense false giliflower annual
Ribes malvaceum Chaparral currant shrub
Silene gallica Windmill Pink annual
Claytonia perfoliata miner’s lettuce annual
Eriogonum elongatum Longstem Buckwheat shrub
Pterostegia drymarioides Fairy Mist annual
Caulanthus lasiophyllus California mustard annual
Hirschfeldia incana Summer Mustard perennial
Thysanocarpus curvipes Fringe Pod annual
Camissoniopsis hirtella Hairy suncup annual
Eulobus californicus California suncup annual
Malosma laurina Laurel sumac shrub
Marah fabaceus common manroot annual vine
Quercus sp Scrub Oak shrub
Ceanothus crassifolius Hoary-leaved Ceanothus shrub
Ceanothus megacarpus Bigpod Ceanothus shrub
Cercocarpus betuloides Mountain Mahogany shrub
Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon shrub
Prunus ilicifolia Holly-leaved cherry shrub
Dendromecon rigida Bush poppy shrub
Delphinium cardinale cardinal larkspur perennial
Odocoileus hemionus Mule deer  tracks
Callipepla californica California Quail
Aphelocoma californica Western Scrub Jay
Elgaria multicarinata California Aligator Lizard
Aspidoscelis tigris Western Whiptail

Compare to Cold Fire, and to cleared section of trail before MP

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5 Jan 2016

I have been checking out the burn area every few weeks but have seen no significant changes. This is unlike the Cold Fire where there were small forbs, ferns, spikemoss and mariposa basal leaves in evidence on 20 Dec (the Cold Fire burned on 6 Nov 2012, so about a week after the Gibraltar). I presume this difference is explained by lack of rain, in 2012 we’d had about 6 inches by the end of December, while in 2015 we’d had .8.

This morning we had 1.6 inches and I wondered if that might be enough to make a difference, but this afternoon proves too soon, and there are still no signs of life. There are some new erosion gullies, but less than I expected.

After the Jesusita fire a number of coast live oaks had their leaves cooked — unburned, but dead. Eventually the oaks put out new leaves and were able to recover. But only oaks in the Jesusita fire. In the Gibraltar fire a number of other plants appear to have been cooked, great berry manzanita, toyon, holly-leaved cherry, bush poppy, woolly yerba santa, etc. It will be interesting to see if they can also recover.

19 Jan 2016

In the last two weeks we’ve had 4¾ inches of rain. This has induced some plants to pop up — finally — this is over a month behind the Cold Fire and 2½ months after the fire. (Observing the burn from the bottom)

  • Bird’s foot fern (Pellea mucronata) has several fiddleheads.
  • Common Phacelia (Phacelia distans) forbs have popped up.
  • A number of forbs I can’t identify
  • A number of grasses I can’t identify
  • Regrowth from rootstock of 2 plants I can’t identify. (possibly twocolor everlasting)

26 Jan 2016

Observing the burn from the top. Sunny and warm.

Marah sp. new vines

Marah sp. new vines

  • Manroot (Marah sp.) many vine patches are growing.
  • California Melic (Melica imperfecta) regrowing from roots, upper part dead (cooked? seasonal death?)

2 Feb 2016

16 Feb 2016

Hot and sunny.

One of the Great Berry Manzanitas below the trail which had its leaves cooked has put out a new leaf flush.

Lots of new forbs I can’t identify

23 Feb 2016

Hot and sunny (again).

The Great Berry Manzanita formerly with cooked leaves now looks completely normal, the new leaves having covered up the old.

3 Mar 2016

Hazy, overcast, warm.

8 Mar 2016

Sunny, very windy, cold in the morning, later warm

17 Mar 2016

Sunny, hot

24 Mar 2016

Sunny, hot

31 Mar 2016

Sunny, cool, breezy

There are lots of star thistle forbs (Centaurea sp.)

7 Apr 2016


11 Apr 2016

Sunny, cool
Some kind of bedstraw forb.

21 Apr 2016

Sunny, warm
Forbs of bush poppy and cliff aster (I think). Maybe two Broad-Leaved Milkweed forbs.

3 May 2016

Hazy, warm
(only examined the top part of the fire)

8 May 2016

Foggy, cool
I learned today that the California Poppies have not grown naturally but were sown by another hiker. I’m told he claims that there are some yellow ones growing here too, so perhaps some E. caespitosa are growing here naturally, but I haven’t noticed them yet.
Toyon, Bush Poppy, Holly Leaved cherry forbs.

24 May 2016

Sunny, cool
Coast Live Oak and Chamise regrowth.

31 May 2016

Sunny, pleasant

7 June 2016

Sunny, pleasant

I tromped around on the ridgeline trail today and noticed that the California Poppies up there had yellow edges with orange centers — in other words they looked the way California Poppies do look in this area. Which makes me think that they may have sprung up naturally in addition to the ones planted

I hope so, anyway

14 June 2016

Sunny, pleasant

19 June 2016

Sunny, pleasant

21 June 2016

Very hot.
I approached the fire from Camino Cielo using the trail the firefighters widened to reach the central knoll. There I found a large patch of Late Blooming Mariposa Lilies. These are too difficult to reach to check regularly.

28 June 2016

Very hot

5 July 2016


14 July 2016


28 July 2016


12 Aug 2016


1 Sept 2016


13 Sept 2016

Dense Fog, later overcast

25 Sept 2016

Very Hot, Santa Ana conditions


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