Wildfires menace southern California, thousands evacuated

SAN DIEGO Thu May 15, 2014 6:45am EDT

1 of 38. Firefighters battle a blaze in San Marcos, California May 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Sam Hodgson

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SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Wildfires were raging in southern California on Thursday, keeping thousands of residents and students away from their homes after San Diego county officials maintained evacuation advisories.

Whipped by the wind, flames swept over the parched land close to homes and roads in nine fires across the county, with black smoke filling the sky as California entered the height of wildfire season in the midst of one of the state's worst droughts. No major injuries were reported.

California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency to free up resources.

A blaze in San Marcos that erupted on Wednesday prompted officials to issue evacuation notices for thousands of residents and students at a California State University campus.

The university, which has more than 9,000 students, said on Thursday its evacuation orders would remain through Friday and it had canceled commencement ceremonies.

"The fire was right above campus. I could see it reaching over part of the hill, this really dark smoke. It was almost like an explosion," Grant Rapoza, 19, told Reuters.

The San Marcos fire has burned 700 acres, destroying at least three buildings, the San Diego County emergency website said on Thursday. "(The) fire is still very active and continues to move to the south," it said.

Another fire that broke out on the Camp Pendleton Marine Base north of San Diego had charred some 6,000 acres by Wednesday evening, prompting the evacuation of military housing and a naval weapons station.

The San Diego Unified School district and other districts canceled Thursday classes, it said. An amusement park, a power generating station, and schools were evacuated on Wednesday.

Officials in the coastal city of Carlsbad said early on Thursday the fire there was about 50 percent contained and lifted some evacuation orders. Emergency shelters had been set up at schools and community centers.

At least eight residences, one apartment building, and two businesses burned to the ground in Carlsbad. Officials estimated the fire caused $18.5 million in damage.

The nine wildfires have so far scorched more than 9,000 acres in total, though firefighters were aided by quieter winds and lower temperatures overnight. Harsher conditions bringing the possibility of new blazes were seen for Thursday.

San Diego Gas and Electric said that power outages hitting more than 2,300 customers could remain through Thursday evening.

(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Comments (10)
FreonP wrote:
This isn’t even close to the real “wildfire season” in So Cal. That begins in the fall.

May 14, 2014 8:37pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
tgraham72 wrote:
The media is doing a huge disservice by not discussing the fact that much of southern California was hit with flooding in March. Because the state–and most of our country–does not make use of this water, fires can and do happen on a much larger scale. Do we use rain water barrels, or do we allow the runoff to escape down an asphalt rabbit hole, never to be seen again? Stop wasting water, and watch the difference in how things unfold. At this point, anything is worth a try.

May 14, 2014 8:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Neurochuck wrote:
@tgraham72
In the rural area of Australia where I live, farmers and others with properties over a certain size are obliged by law to maintain full tanks of 10,000 gallons or more for fire fighting. This allows direct pumping to defend that property, and close refill of water tankers to make ground crews more effective. Aerial water bombing can concentrate on critical targets such as road access and houses.
The tanks are at the owners expense, as are other obligations like fuel reduction, but the plastic tanks are pretty cheap, and usually filled from shed/barn roof runoff, separate to drinking/washing water.

May 14, 2014 10:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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