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Cal State San Marcos evacuated; structures burn in Carlsbad

Wildfire forces evacuation of Cal State San Marcos amid final exams

A new wildfire in San Diego County forced the evacuation of Cal State San Marcos on Wednesday as crews battled a series of other blazes that had taxed firefighting resources to the point that officials declared a local emergency.

The university, which has an enrollment of more than 10,000 students, was in the middle of administering spring finals when the fire in the hills south of the campus advanced closer and the evacuation order was issued.

Dubbed the Twin Oaks fire, the blaze quickly spread to 20 acres near Lake Hodges, prompting evacuation orders for North San Elijo, Discovery and Coronado Hills.

In Carlsbad, where 22 housing structures were destroyed by the wind-driven Poinsettia fire, the number of evacuation orders increased to 15,000.

Several other fires, including in Fallbrook, Camp Pendleton and Rancho Bernardo, prompted their own evacuations as agencies from other jurisdictions sent resources to aid in the fight.

The burden on local firefighting resources prompted San Diego County to declare an emergency and call on Gov. Jerry Brown to free up greater access to assistance.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said his agency was coordinating with the military to help battle fires in Carlsbad and Fallbrook, adding that about 120 deputies were helping fight fires.

Evacuations were also in effect for a wildfires in Bonsall, and fires were also being fanned in Oceanside and Escondido on Wednesday afternoon.

Elsewhere, crews were also fighting fires in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

More than 100 firefighters responded to a brush fire that broke out at 1:13 p.m. in an agricultural area west of Santa Paula, forcing the temporary closure of California 126 between Peck and Wells roads.

Firefighters on Wednesday also increased containment of the Miguelito fire in Santa Barbara County, estimated at 600 acres, to 50%.

A mobile home park in Anaheim was also briefly evacuated due to a nearby brush fire that closed the 91 Freeway in both directions.

“It's just unfortunately a recipe for a large fire and that’s what we’re seeing right now,” Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler, speaking about the Poinsettia fire, told local television reporters.

The Poinsettia fire, he added, uncontained Wednesday afternoon, adding that it was a "very dynamic situation. Very dangerous situation.” 

Thick, dark plumes of smoke cut visibility to the point where people were driving with their headlights on. At a gas station on Palomar Airport Road, there were dozens of other drivers waiting in line to fuel up and evacuate, witness Ryan Marble said, adding that it took nearly 20 minutes just to reach the pump.

Marble described seeing the fire roar up a hillside behind Poinsettia Elementary School as several homes burned at the top of that ridge.

"At times it looks like there’s fire in the sky with the wind whipping back and forth," he said.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times


2:50 p.m.: This story was updated with the number of homes burned in Carlsbad.

3:12 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect the latest information on the number of fires burning across the Southland and the damage caused in Carlsbad.

3:30 p.m.: This story was updated to include the 405 Freeway closure.

5:30 p.m.: This story was updated throughout to reflect the Cal State San Marcos evacuations and other developments. The headline and sharelines were also updated.

May 15, 12:30 p.m.: This story was updated to reflect updated damage estimates in Carlsbad.