Fires Scorch California: Damage Estimates of at Least $22.5 Million

By Michael Kuhne, Staff Writer
May 15, 2014; 11:09 PM ET
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Gusty winds, heat and very low humidity in California will set the stage for extreme fire conditions, as several fires continue to rage near San Diego.

On Wednesday, the Poinsettia Fire ignited approximately 25 miles from San Diego, in Carlsbad, which has forced the evacuation order of thousands of residents and has claimed structures in its wake, city officials reported.

The wildfire near Carlsbad claimed several homes and destroyed two commercial buildings, with early structural damage assessments estimated at $22.5 million, according to the City of Carlsbad.

As of Thursday morning, multiple fires near San Marcos was reported to have damaged and claimed homes, according to the city's official report.

Billowing smoke rises from flames as firefighters begin the trek up the hills to battle a wildfire, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo)

California Governor Edmund Brown declared a state of emergency for San Diego County Wednesday evening. The San Diego Unified School District, along with many other school districts in the county, will be closed Thursday because of the fires and the extreme heat.

California State University San Marcos has been evacuated and is closed for the rest of the week. Commencement ceremonies scheduled for Friday and Saturday have been canceled. President Dr. Karen Haynes said on the school's website: "Canceling commencement was not a decision we took lightly and we are saddened by the circumstances. Safety continues to be our first concern."

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More than 20,000 homes in San Diego were ordered to evacuate on Tuesday due to the growing Bernardo Fire in North County, according to a report from San Diego County officials.

At 8:43 p.m. PDT Tuesday, San Diego County officials lifted all evacuation orders in San Diego City that were put in place earlier in the day.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the blaze consumed 1,548 acres and was only 25 percent contained as of 9:15 a.m. PDT Wednesday.

In all, nine wildfires have burned more than 9,000 acres in San Diego County this week.

The fires have been able to spread quickly thanks to persistent and very dry winds. Gusts peaked as high as 50 mph on Wednesday.

"The heat is going to continue right through into the end of the week," Meteorologist Brian Edwards said. Looking ahead into Thursday, the wind should die down, he said.

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

With the diminished wind, the fires may not spread as quickly. However, with the ground still very dry and temperatures still near record levels on Thursday, additional fires will be a concern.

A massive brush fire posed an immediate threat to structures near Camp Pendleton, San Diego County, according to the Park and Forest service. This fire, known as the Tomahawk Fire, has burned about 6,000 acres as of Wednesday evening.

CAL FIRE said that the blaze started at about 9:45 a.m. PDT Wednesday, at the Naval Weapons Station in Fallbrook, north of San Diego. Military housing have been ordered to evacuate.

No major injuries have been reported as of Thursday afternoon.


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