Wildfires scorch parched California; 2,600 firefighters respond
An airplane makes a fire retardant drop on a burning hill near in a fire that burned nearly 2,000 acres in northern San Diego County in May 2014. A 14-year-old girl convicted of starting the fire was sentenced Wednesday to 400 hours of community service.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
More than 2,600 firefighters are now fighting the brush fires in San Diego County and other parts of California, officials said Friday.
Forecasts of onshore winds, cooler temperatures and higher humidity fanned hopes for better firefighting conditions.
“This week’s burst of large wildfires is a reminder of just how dry conditions are in California,” said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, otherwise known as Cal Fire.
In four days, Berlant said, the agency has responded to 120 new wildfires statewide. Several red flag warnings for high fire danger have been extended for parts of Tulare, Kern, Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to gusty winds, hot temperatures and low humidity.
In L.A. County alone, firefighters responded to about 20 spot fires in two days, about twice the average. In Orange County, firefighters have dealt with at least one structure fire every day this week, along with more spot fires, heat-related medical calls and downed power lines than normal, officials said.
Still, progress was being made on several fronts.
Full containment was expected Friday for the Miguelito fire, which has burned 632 acres in Santa Barbara County. In Northern California, the roughly 50-acre Fiddler fire in Shasta County has been contained, Cal Fire reported.
In San Diego County, the 10 most significant wildfires have so far burned more than 10,000 acres as crews struggle to bring some of them under control.
The most active fire is in San Marcos, where the 1,200-acre Cocos fire remains just 10% contained. Firefighters there have increased their air attack with helicopters from the military and county Sheriff’s Department. Officials said evacuation notices covering 13,000 San Marcos homes and businesses had been issued.
The largest current fire, covering 6,300 acres, erupted Wednesday at Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook next to Camp Pendleton.
In Carlsbad, however, firefighters had a better handle of the Poinsettia fire, which was 85% contained Friday morning. All road closures and evacuations had been lifted as fire crews continued to respond to reports of hot spots.
For safety reasons, Carlsbad police were still controlling access to three streets that saw most of the destruction.
The fire destroyed eight homes, an 18-unit apartment complex, two commercial buildings and a modular building. A second 18-unit apartment complex suffered a considerable amount of damage, while three other homes had minor damage.
The Bernardo fire southwest of Rancho Bernardo, meanwhile, was 90% contained and remained at 1,548 acres, officials reported.
The cause of the San Diego County fire remained under investigation Friday, although law enforcement officials said there was no immediate evidence of arson. However, investigators were trying to determine if an adult male and juvenile arrested on suspicion of arson in Escondido late Thursday had any ties to the brush fires.
The pair was arrested after witnesses reported them for allegedly trying to set two small fires inside the Escondido city limits. They attempted to flee on bicycles but were overtaken, officials said.
Perry reported from San Diego and Rocha from Los Angeles. Joseph Serna in Los Angeles contributed reporting.
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