Fires burn nearly 10,000 acres in San Diego County despite progress

Firefighters in San Diego County continued to make progress against several fires Thursday, but a blaze in San Marcos raged largely unchecked.

Hundreds of homes remained threatened by the 800-acre fire in San Marcos as firefighters tried to take advantage of calmer winds, officials reported. The community of Harmony Grove was a major source of concern as flames came perilously close to homes.


Just 5% contained, the so-called Cocos fire was burning in two directions, officials said.

"Yesterday was a difficult day throughout the county," Battalion Chief Nick Schuler of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said at a news conference Thursday. "This is the No. 1 fire in the county. Priority One."

Overnight, 45 water drops were made by San Diego helicopters, which were given permission by Cal Fire to fly at night, said San Marcos Fire Chief Brett Van Wey.

The subsiding winds were helping greatly, he added.

Still, officials said a major challenge in battling the blaze has been getting homeowners to evacuate.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore reminded residents that 120 deputies were in San Marcos to protect evacuated homes.

"We are protecting your property when you are gone," he said.

Evacuations remain in place for a large area, including for Cal State San Marcos.

Three structures have been destroyed and one damaged, official reported.

A Red Cross shelter supervisor said about 250 are checked in at Mission Hills High School, where rows of cots, some people still sleeping in them, were laid out inside the gym. A pet area was set up in the locker room. 

Fewer than 25 evacuees had registered at the La Costa High School shelter.

The cause of the fires remained under investigation.

"We'll do a thorough investigation of each and every fire," Gore said.

While fires continued to rage in Carlsbad and San Marcos, firefighters worked to get a handle on four other blazes -- in Rancho Bernardo, Camp Pendleton, Bonsall and Oceanside.


Firefighters continued to make progress against the Bernardo fire, which was 75% contained after burning about 1,548 acres, Cal Fire reported Thursday morning.

All evacuations connected to that fire have been lifted, though crews were still battling its eastern front.

Helicopters from the U.S. Marines and U.S Navy initiated water drops to drench flames that traveled from the Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook to Camp Pendleton.

At least 6,000 acres have been scorched by the Tomahawk fire, and evacuation orders were still in effect for the De Luz Housing area. More than 40 power lines were damaged, resulting in power outages in the area.

About 890 evacuees reported to Camp Pendleton's Paige Fieldhouse, which served as an evacuation site for personnel from the weapons station. The station was closed Thursday due to the outage.

Authorities lifted 1,600 evacuation notices for the 600-acre Highway fire burn area along the Old Highway 395 and Interstate 15 in Bonsall, although firefighters were still working to fully contain the blaze.

Oceanside firefighters battled a 100-acre blaze, which had been 20% contained and mostly confined to a riverbed on North River Road Thursday.

Legoland, meanwhile, announced that it had reopened a day after heavy smoke from the Poinsettia fire had forced the park to close and evacuate.

In other parts of state, the flames scorched 29 acres near Santa Paula in Ventura County on Wednesday, but firefighters appeared to have mostly contained the fire.

Firefighters were also able get a handle on 632-acre fire that prompted evacuation orders in Lompoc in Santa Barbara County, which officials estimated to have cost $225,000.