The cluster of fires comes as California enters its peak fire
season amid its worst drought in decades. Officials worry it could
be a particularly dangerous year.
Crews made some progress against the fires, which have scorched
thousands of acres this week across Southern California. But they
had only a tenuous grip on the so-called Cocos Fire, which was
threatening the northern San Diego county communities of San Marcos
Late on Thursday, Escondido Police said they had arrested two teens,
ages 17 and a 19-year-old, identified as Isaiah Silva, on
arson-related charges after locating the pair near a mall. They
matched descriptions by witnesses of two people trying to set fires
in the South Escondido area.
Authorities elsewhere were also investigating how so many fires
started about the same time and whether any were intentionally set.
"We all have suspicions, like the public does, when you have nine
fires that started all over the county," San Diego County Sheriff
Bill Gore said.
At least one large home was burned to the ground in suburban San
Marcos by the Cocos Fire. Television images showed towering flames
closing in on other homes as residents scrambled to collect
belongings and evacuate.
Twists of flames roared in the wind and across hillsides, filling
the sky with plumes of black smoke. Fire engines with lights
flashing moved along winding streets in neighborhoods of large
The fires had destroyed seven homes and an 18-unit apartment
building across San Diego county, authorities said. Seven other
homes and two businesses were damaged.
The roughly 1,200-acre Cocos Fire was at least 5 percent contained
by late Thursday evening, Cal Fire said, and fire officials were
aided by weakened winds and cooler temperatures overnight. About
1,600 San Marcos residents were allowed to return home to specific
areas, the sheriff's department said early on Friday.
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However, California State University's San Marcos campus, which has
some 9,000 students, and other areas remained under evacuation
Elsewhere, a blaze that broke out on the Camp Pendleton Marine Base
north of San Diego had charred some 6,000 acres.
A 400-acre fire in the coastal city of Carlsbad destroyed 18
apartment units, four houses and two commercial buildings and forced
the evacuation of residents, along with the Legoland amusement park
and 13 employees at the largely decommissioned San Onofre Nuclear
That blaze was about 85 percent contained on Thursday evening and
officials lifted evacuation orders for the city of Carlsbad. Crews
checking hot spots found a badly burned body in a transient
encampment. They could not immediately confirm the person was killed
by the fire.
(Writing by Eric M. Johnson)
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