9 wildfires burn across San Diego County
Published 9:26 am Thursday, May 15, 2014
CARLSBAD, Calif. — Nine wildfires covering more than 14 square miles scorched San Diego County on Wednesday, forcing thousands to flee their homes and prompting the closures of a college campus and Legoland California. No major injuries were reported.
Firefighters contended with temperatures approaching 100 degrees and gusty winds as they tried to contain flames fueled by brush and trees left brittle by drought. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries — one heat-related and one from smoke inhalation.
The biggest concern late Wednesday was in San Marcos north of San Diego, where a new blaze broke out in the late afternoon, some 21,000 evacuation notices were sent to residents and a California State University campus with nearly 10,000 students was evacuated. At least five structures there were destroyed, authorities said, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many were homes.
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The most destructive of the fires was in the coastal city of Carlsbad, about 30 miles north of San Diego and home to Legoland. The park was closed because of a power outage caused by the fire.
The city’s schools also were closed, as most of the county’s would be on Thursday, and officials expected they wouldn’t reopen until next week.
Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall said the blaze consumed an eight-unit condominium complex, as well as damaged eight homes and two businesses. Thousands were asked to evacuate their homes.
As the flames surged, a steady stream of residents stopped at a roadblock on a four-lane thoroughfare as they tried to return home to collect valuables.
Richard Sanchez watched nervously as a plume of black smoke rose near his home. He had left his house an hour earlier to run an errand.
“All I want to do is get there and evacuate,” Sanchez said. “We have a plan, but I can’t execute it.”
As authorities yelled “Please evacuate!” in Joe Post’s neighborhood, he grabbed a garden hose and doused a palm tree in flames between his home and his neighbor’s. He debated about leaving his home, but he was worried what he might find upon returning.
“Work water, work!” he shouted, spraying down charred landscaping.