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Firefighters Gaining Ground on California Wildfires

By Michael Kuhne, Staff Writer
May 19, 2014; 8:29 PM ET

As the air cools down and moistens up, firefighters are gaining ground on the wildfires across San Diego County.

At least 10 fires have scorched thousands of acres, forced the evacuation of thousands of residents and claimed more than $22 million in property damage since last week.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said he isn't sure how the rest of the wildfire season will be in his state.

"Well, we're in the third year of a very dry season. We're getting ready for the worst. Now, we don't want to anticipate before we know, but we need a full compliment of firefighting capacity," Brown said Sunday on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

"We have 5,000 firefighters. We're going to need thousands more," Brown said. "And in the years to come, we're going to have to make very expensive investments and adjust. And the people are going to have to be careful of how they live, how they build their homes and what kind of vegetation is allowed to grow around them."

The causes of the fires are being investigated, according to the Associated Press.

Firefighters plan their attack as the brush fire flares up heading toward homes Thursday, May 15, 2014, in San Marcos, Calif. Gusty winds failed to return Thursday morning in San Diego County wildfire areas and authorities said it was a window of opportunity to make further gains against flames that burned homes and drove tens of thousands from their homes. (AP Photo)

Late Thursday evening, two individuals were arrested on suspicion of trying to start a fire in Escondido, The Los Angeles Times reported.

On Friday, a 57-year-old man was charged with arson in one of the fires, the Associated Press reported.

As of Saturday night, there have been six people reported injured, three from the Cocos Fire, and three from the Bernardo Fire. There has also been one body that was found badly burned near the Carlsbad Fire, but the cause of death is still not certain.

Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency for San Diego County on Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday, a wildfire near Carlsbad claimed several homes and destroyed two commercial buildings, with early structural damage assessments estimated at $22.5 million, according to the report.

Another fire ignited on Wednesday near Camp Pendleton and has since grown to 23,000 acres or around 18 percent of the base, the Marine Corps Community Services at Camp Pendleton site reported.

Cocos Fire near San Marcos (Photo/@NWSSanDiego)

By late Saturday, a fire near San Marcos had consumed more than 2,500 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The fire was 80 percent contained.

Since Jan. 1, CAL FIRE has responded to more than 1,500 wildfires. The average to date is roughly 800 according to a statewide fire summary.

A wildfire approaches homes on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in San Marcos, California. (AP Photo)

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Multiple fires near San Marcos were reported to have damaged and claimed homes, according to the city's official report.

The fires have been able to spread quickly due to heat and persistent dry winds.

Firefighters across Southern California will continue to benefit from cooler and more moist air flowing in from the Pacific Ocean through at least the first part of this week.

Gusty winds will howl across the Southwest through Monday, but will mainly be confined to the deserts and points eastward.

A gusty breeze will return to parts of Southern California later on Tuesday. These winds will be blowing in from the ocean and will not be dry Santa Ana winds.

A firenado is born out of a fire in Bonsall, California, on Thursday, May 14, 2014. (Photo/Rick Halsey,

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