(Adds details on residents returning to homes, size of one
By Alex Dobuzinskis
May 17 Firefighters battling a major wildfire in
southern California surrounded most of the blaze overnight, a
fire official said on Saturday, as evacuated residents began to
return to a region where dozens of homes were destroyed by a
series of fires.
In all, nearly a dozen fires scorched about 20,000 acres
(8,093 hectares) of drought-parched brush across San Diego
county this past week. As firefighters brought several of the
blazes under control, a man was charged on Friday with one count
of arson in connection with one of the smaller fires.
With cool, moist air coming in from the Pacific coast,
firefighters gained the upper hand overnight against the
so-called Cocos Fire, one of the region's fiercest, that
threatened the suburban community of San Marcos north of San
By Saturday morning, firefighters had contained 70 percent
of the 2,520-acre (1020-hectare), said fire task force spokesman
Tim Evans. That marked a significant improvement from Friday,
when the blaze was only 10 percent contained.
The Cocos Fire destroyed a dozen houses and another 25
structures at a local spiritualism center, county officials
The conditions on Saturday were less windy than earlier in
the week, when hot, dry Santa Ana winds drove the flames on
their destructive path.
Some residents evacuated from the San Marcos area were
allowed to return home late on Friday and additional evacuation
orders had been lifted by Saturday evening, San Diego county
All road closures and evacuation orders are anticipated to
be lifted at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, the county said.
It was not immediately clear how many residents were still
unable to return home, but earlier in the week officials said
125,000 people lived in the evacuation zones for all the San
Diego county wildfires combined.
A charred body was found on Thursday at a homeless
encampment overrun by flames in coastal Carlsbad, although
officials said they had yet to confirm the exact cause of death.
The Carlsbad blaze, which scorched 600 acres (243 hectares),
left property losses of up to $15 million, gutted eight houses
and destroyed an apartment building, officials said.
Meanwhile, Alberto Serrato was charged on Friday with one
count of arson in connection with a small fire this week in the
coastal community of Oceanside, said a spokeswoman with the San
Diego County District Attorney's office. Serrato faces a maximum
of seven years in prison if convicted.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Gunna
Dickson and Matt Driskill)