Firefighters Toil to Tame San Diego Wildfires

SAN MARCOS, Calif. (AP) -
Firefighters move back down the embankment to the brush fire Thursday, in San Marcos, Calif. (AP Photo)
Firefighters move back down the embankment to the brush fire Thursday, in San Marcos, Calif. (AP Photo)

One of the nine fires burning in San Diego County suddenly flared Thursday afternoon and burned close to homes as new winds arrived.

The flare-up near the state university city of San Marcos occurred after a half-day lull in winds that firefighters had seized as an opportunity to make progress against flames that have scorched thousands of acres.

State fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser said the fire was running east along hillsides behind California State University San Marcos.

The flare-up appeared to involve a change in wind direction. On previous days there was offshore flow – generally from the northeast. But Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service reported winds out of the northwest.

Fires began erupting Tuesday amid high heat, extremely low humidity and gusty Santa Ana winds. By Wednesday, nine fires were burning.

Emergency officials said a significant number of firefighting aircraft had become available, including four air tankers and 22 military helicopters.

Ten of the military helicopters were being used to battle a blaze that grew to 9.37 square miles on the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton. Despite its growth, the fire was 20 percent contained and was no longer considered a threat to communities.

The wildfires drove tens of thousands from their homes and shut down schools and amusement parks, including Legoland. The amusement park reopened Thursday.

Firefighters contended with temperatures approaching 100 degrees and gusty winds as they tried to contain flames fueled by brush and trees left brittle by drought.

Drought conditions have made fire danger extremely high throughout much of California. Officials have encouraged residents in fire-prone areas to prepare evacuation plans and clear brush from near their homes.