Menace Southern California, Thousands Evacuated
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[May 15, 2014]
By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Wildfires were
raging in southern California on Thursday, keeping thousands of
residents and students away from their homes after San Diego county
officials maintained evacuation advisories.
Whipped by the wind, flames swept over the parched land close to
homes and roads in nine fires across the county, with black smoke
filling the sky as California entered the height of wildfire season
in the midst of one of the state's worst droughts. No major injuries
California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency to
free up resources.
A blaze in San Marcos that erupted on Wednesday prompted officials
to issue evacuation notices for thousands of residents and students
at a California State University campus.
The university, which has more than 9,000 students, said on Thursday
its evacuation orders would remain through Friday and it had
canceled commencement ceremonies.
"The fire was right above campus. I could see it reaching over part
of the hill, this really dark smoke. It was almost like an
explosion," Grant Rapoza, 19, told Reuters.
The San Marcos fire has burned 700 acres, destroying at least three
buildings, the San Diego County emergency website said on Thursday.
"(The) fire is still very active and continues to move to the
south," it said.
Another fire that broke out on the Camp Pendleton Marine Base north
of San Diego had charred some 6,000 acres by Wednesday evening,
prompting the evacuation of military housing and a naval weapons
The San Diego Unified School district and other districts canceled
Thursday classes, it said. An amusement park, a power generating
station, and schools were evacuated on Wednesday.
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Officials in the coastal city of Carlsbad said early on Thursday the
fire there was about 50 percent contained and lifted some evacuation
orders. Emergency shelters had been set up at schools and community
At least eight residences, one apartment building, and two
businesses burned to the ground in Carlsbad. Officials estimated the
fire caused $18.5 million in damage.
The nine wildfires have so far scorched more than 9,000 acres in
total, though firefighters were aided by quieter winds and lower
temperatures overnight. Harsher conditions bringing the possibility
of new blazes were seen for Thursday.
San Diego Gas and Electric said that power outages hitting more than
2,300 customers could remain through Thursday evening.
(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego; Writing by Eric M. Johnson;
Editing by Alison Williams)
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