San Diego Sheriff's deputies watch as a firefighting
helicopter flies across during the Cocos Fire in San
Marcos, California. REUTERS/Sam Hodgson
Firefighters took advantage of a lull in wind conditions
to try to gain the upper hand against nine California wildfires
that have forced the evacuation of thousands of San Diego area
residents and burned dozens of homes, officials said.
Flames have swept over areas close to homes and roads in
drought-parched San Diego County, destroying more than 10,000
acres (4,047 hectares) and filling the sky with black smoke.
California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of
emergency to free up resources.
Wind gusts were about half as intense on Thursday as the day
before, which saw so-called 'firenadoes' - twisting wind
columns that throw off embers - said Cal Fire spokeswoman
"That's an improvement over yesterday, and if that weather
pattern persists that would be good for the firefighters,"
she said, adding that lower winds make it easier to put
aircraft to work combating the blazes.
The blaze comes as California enters its peak fire season in
the midst of one of its worst droughts in decades, setting
the stage for what state officials worry could be a
particularly intense and dangerous year.
A fire that erupted on Wednesday in the area of San Marcos, a
community 30 miles (48 km) north of San Diego, prompted
officials to issue evacuation notices for thousands of
residents and students at a local California State University
Officials say the blaze, which has ranged across about 800
acres (324 hectares) in steep terrain, is the top threat in
the county and is only 5 percent contained. No major injuries
"As you stand here today, you can tell it's extremely hot,
it's dry, we're in early May, we have a long fire season
ahead," Cal-Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler told reporters.
The fire near San Marcos has destroyed at least three
buildings, officials said.
Another blaze that broke out on the Camp Pendleton Marine
Base north of San Diego had charred some 6,000 acres (2,430
hectares) by Thursday.
The San Diego Unified School district and other districts
canceled Thursday classes.
Officials in the coastal city of Carlsbad said on Thursday a
400-acre (162-hectare) fire in that area was about 60 percent
contained and they lifted some evacuation orders. The blaze
has destroyed 18 apartment units, four houses and two
commercial buildings, the city said on its website.