The conflagrations, which marked an intense, early start to
California's wildfire season, have scorched more than 30 square
miles or nearly 20,000 acres of drought-parched brush this week
across San Diego County, leaving dozens of homes damaged or
A burned human corpse was found Thursday at a homeless encampment
overrun by flames in the coastal town of Carlsbad, although
officials said they had yet to confirm whether the individual was
killed by the fire.
Two teenagers were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of setting two
small fires that bystanders quickly extinguished. But police said
they had no immediate reason to link the youths to any of nearly a
dozen larger brush fires that raged throughout the county this week.
By morning, fire crews had managed to carve containment lines around
10 percent of the fiercest of the blazes, which has blackened some
3,000 acres since erupting on Wednesday near the town of San Marcos,
north of San Diego, fire officials said.
The latest containment figure was double the 5 percent reported on
Thursday amidst an unseasonable mix of record triple-digit
temperatures, low humidity and hot, dry Santa Ana winds blowing in
from the desert. (See graphic: http://link.reuters.com/jaw78v)
"We haven't seen this in 25 years, where we're fighting wind-driven
fires in May," said Mike Mohler, a spokesman for the California
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Firefighters benefited from a break in the weather, as Santa Ana
winds gave way to a cooler, moister and calmer flow of air from the
coast, officials said. A further cooling trend forecast for the
weekend was expected to help tame the blazes.
A U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said fire crews had gained "a
pretty good handle" on most of the fires, which forced as many as
125,000 people from their homes during the week.
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One of the most damaging of those fires, in Carlsbad, was 85 percent
contained on Friday. But it left property losses estimated at up to
$15 million, including eight houses gutted, an 18-unit apartment
building destroyed and an adjoining apartment house heavily damaged,
city officials said.
Three more houses were confirmed as destroyed in San Marcos, where
evacuation orders were lifted Friday for some 4,600 people in two
neighborhoods but remained in effect for the bulk of homes
threatened by that blaze, officials said.
Authorities were 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 ...
fires that started all over the county," San Diego County Sheriff
Bill Gore said.
A series of four fires at Camp Pendleton Marine Base north of San
Diego prompted evacuations of several outposts within the
installation and led commanders to send non-essential personnel home
(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Bernard Orr)
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