The dry, hot, windy conditions that fanned an out-of-control wildfire in Carlsbad on Wednesday were only expected to get worse before they got better, offering firefighters little in the way of any short term relief, forecasters said.
Vegetation in the Carlsbad hills has been drying all week, and whatever moisture is left will dissipate “rapidly” by Thursday, said Philip Gonsalves, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“I think between this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon, things are going to get worse,” Gonsalves said. “Only because the conditions will be prolonged. But you can’t get much worse than it is right now.”
Fire officials said the sustained winds, combined with extreme temperatures, had created a "very dynamic situation" as they tried to gain a hold on the Poinsettia fire, which by Wednesday afternoon remained 0% contained.
Roughly 15,000 evacuation notifications had been issued to areas west of El Fuerte Road, south of Palomar Airport Road, north of Aviara Parkway and west to the coast as a result of the Poinsettia fire alone.
Several other fires, including in Fallbrook, Camp Pendleton and Rancho Bernardino, prompted their own evacuations as agencies from other jurisdictions sent resources to aid in the fight.
Temperatures have hovered in the 90s this week with humidity in the single-digits, while wind gusts have been upward of 35 mph, Gonsalves said. But by Thursday afternoon, the winds could shift, throwing a wrench into whatever strategy firefighters may develop to get ahead of the blaze, he said.
“With the wind directions becoming variable, it’s more difficult to predict which way the fire is going to grow,” Gonsalves said. “There's an abundance of fuel to consume.”
The fire had already destroyed dozens of homes in Carlsbad, and blazes in other communites were also threatending structures.
“It’s one thing to have a fire start in a remote area, and that’ll give responding agencies time to formulate a plan and respond," Gonsalves said. "There was very little time to respond near Carlsbad.”
Temperatures won’t begin to cool until Friday, when an onshore breeze could drop inland temperatures in San Diego County into the 80s, he said.