State Of Emergency Declared As Wildfires Burn In Southern California


UPDATED: Thursday May 15, 2014 5:22 AM

CBS NEWS- Nine wildfires covered more than 14 square miles of a Southern California county, forcing thousands to flee their homes and prompting the closures of a college campus and a popular theme park. No major injuries were reported.

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. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries - one heat-related and one from smoke inhalation.

The biggest concern early Thursday was in San Marcos, north of San Diego, where a new blaze broke out in the late afternoon, some 21,000 evacuation notices were sent to residents and a California State University campus with nearly 10,000 students was evacuated.

The campus will remain closed through Friday and this weekend's commencement ceremonies have been canceled, university officials told CBS San Diego affiliate KFMB-TV.

The fire had chewed up 8 structures, 400 acres and was zero percent contained early Thursday, the station reports.

The most destructive of the fires was in the coastal city of Carlsbad, about 30 miles north of San Diego and home to Legoland. The park was closed because of a power outage caused by the fire.

The city's schools also were closed and officials expected they wouldn't reopen until next week.

Thousands of Carlsbad residents were asked to evacuate their homes.

The blaze had damaged or destroyed more than a dozen residences, charred some 400 acres and was ten percent contained early Thursday, KFMB says.

As the flames surged, a steady stream of residents stopped at a roadblock on a four-lane thoroughfare as they tried to return home to collect valuables.

Richard Sanchez watched nervously as a plume of black smoke rose near his home. He had left his house an hour earlier to run an errand.

"All I want to do is get there and evacuate," Sanchez said. "We have a plan, but I can't execute it."

Two fires erupted on the outskirts of sprawling Camp Pendleton Wednesday -- one blackening thousands of acres on the eastern side of the base and another charring several dozen acres along Interstate 5 and forcing a full closure of the freeway for several hours, KFMB reports.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for San Diego County, which would free up special resources and funding for the firefight, and state fire officials were creating a central command center for the blazes.

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.

Firefighters gained ground on another San Diego County fire that broke out Tuesday and forced the evacuation of 20,000 homes. Authorities reported 50 percent containment of the 2.42-square-mile fire that broke out in the Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego.

The causes of the various fires were under investigation.