California Wildfires

San Diego County remained under a state of emergency Thursday morning, as nine fires burned in a 14-square-mile area, fanned by hot, dry air and unusual springtime Santa Ana winds. Thousands of people have been evacuated and many schools across the city and the county have canceled classes until at least next week. New evacuations were ordered Thursday morning in San Marcos. Overall, about 21,000 people are out of their homes, including students who were in the middle of finals at a campus of California State University. The forecast is not promising for at least another day. “Relief is on the way, but it will be slow,” explained senior meteorologist Jon Erdman. “Friday, the Santa Ana winds will finally cease, but it will remain quite warm. This weekend, however, onshore winds will bring temperatures back to mid-May averages, with 70s along the coast, along with higher humidity, morning low clouds and fog.” In Carlsbad, about 30 miles north of San Diego, flames were shooting up along canyon ridges as thick black smoke darkened blue skies. A power outage closed the Legoland California amusement park. Carlsbad’s city government said eight homes, an eight-unit apartment complex and two businesses had been damaged. No serious injuries were reported. Here’s a look at the status of some of the largest, most-impactful fires: San Marcos/Cocos Fire – 700 acres and no containment; 21,000 evacuations Tomahawk Fire: 6,000 acres Poinsettia Fire: 400 acres Highway Fire – 600 acres; 5 percent contained Bernardo Fire: 1,550 acres; 50 percent contained Miguelito Fire: 600 acres; 80 percent contained The Tomahawk fire forced the evacuation of residents in military housing at Camp Pendleton, and the closure of an elementary school on the Marine Corps base. Another fire spread from a burning vehicle on coastal Interstate 5 to roadside brush near the northwest corner of the Marine base. Photos showed the Tomahawk fire line was close to structures. The Highway Fire spawned several firewhirls, also known as firenadoes or smokenadoes. Evacuations were ordered at Fallbrook, Mary Fay Pendleton Elementary School and Camp Pendleton’s De Luz. As fire crept closer to the San Onofre nuclear power plant, about “a dozen non-essential employees evacuated,” Southern California Edison said in a tweet. The San Diego Unified School District and 21 smaller school districts in the county announced that classes would not be held Thursday, May 15. California State University San Marcos cancelled commencement ceremonies scheduled for this weekend. Meanwhile, crews were battling the Bernardo fire which started Tuesday and grew to more than 1,550 acres less than 24 hours after it began; crews said it was 25 percent contained. Evacuation orders were lifted for all of the more than 20,000 residents in and around San Diego on Tuesday night just a few hours after they were called, and all but a handful of the 1,200 homes and businesses told to evacuate in Santa Barbara County had been allowed to return.   “We believe we have a pretty good handle on it,” San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar said. “We hope to do some more work through the night and into tomorrow, but I think the largest part of the emergency has passed.” By late afternoon, the flames ripped through canyons to approach expensive homes and new subdivisions on the ridges. It spread to Rancho Santa Fe, one of the nation’s wealthiest communities, known for its multimillion-dollar homes, golfing and horseback riding. At least two high schools and three elementary schools were evacuated Tuesday. The city of San Diego issued between 16,000 and 17,000 evacuation orders, according to San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. Gore said the sheriff’s department issued an additional 5,000 evacuation orders outside city limits. All the evacuations were called off by about 9 p.m.   Elsewhere in California Meanwhile, in Santa Barbara County, firefighters say the Miguelito fire was 50 percent contained and had burned 600 acres. Heavy brush and downed power lines provided special challenges for the nearly firefighters, said David Sadecki of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. Chrissy Cabral, 57, rounded up friends to help her remove 19 head of cattle she keeps at a local ranch after the fire shifted directions. She said firefighters warned her: “Get out now.” “It was very high flames, very dark,” she said. In Ventura County, the cities of Oxnard and Camarillo set all-time record highs for the month of May on Wednesday, reaching 102 degrees. The cities had never recorded triple-digit temperatures earlier in a year than June 11 previously. No major fires were reported in the county, but the Briggs Fire burned about 29 acres in an agricultural area near Santa Paula. In Los Angeles County, a fire on Interstate 405 in the San Fernando Valley was quickly put out Wednesday afternoon but not before blocking traffic on the major artery for a time. The Los Angeles Times said police detained a woman who may have been cooking underneath the freeway. Highs in Los Angeles proper Wednesday ranged from 96 at LAX and 99 downtown (both records) to 101 in Van Nuys. The Orange County Fire Authority reported a brief brush fire Monday. It was contained before it could reach any structures. A house fire Tuesday was aggravated by the dry winds, the authority said. Another brush fire popped up in the county Wednesday but there were no reports of damage. Crews will remain watchful as fire conditions remain conducive through the end of the week. “Beginning Friday, winds will begin to turn onshore, with much cooler 60s and 70s returning to the coast this weekend,” Erdman said. Heat advisories and high wind warnings remain in effect for many coastal regions of California.