On October 25 of 2003 a flammable shrub called chaparral was dry, in abundance and ignited by a "hunter". Strong 40 mile-per-hour Santa Ana winds made for extremely dry conditions in and around San Diego County and Lakeside. Daytime temperatures were above 90°F and the humidity was in the single-digits. With all elements of the fire triangle present and at high levels, the Cedar Fire rapidly turned into a dangerous firestorm. Government reports support a final conclusion that nothing could have prevented major destruction after ignition.
Investigators arrested Sergio Martinez for "setting fire to timber". Mr. Martinez concocted several stories around becoming lost hunting and setting a search fire. These inconsistencies resulted in being charged with lying to a federal officer but plea bargained for the arson charge.