A wildfire that has burned more than 800 acres and at least three structures south of state Route 78 near Cal State San Marcos was 5 percent contained today, according to fire authorities, who called the blaze the county's No. 1 priority.
The Cocos Fire broke out along Cocos Drive about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, according to Cal Fire. As of early today, at least three structures were destroyed and one was damaged by the fire.
Several thousands of San Marcos-area residents remained evacuated early today.
"Yesterday was a difficult day throughout the county with fire units responding to more than nine fires here in San Diego County," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler said. "Throughout the night we made great progress on some of the fires in the county, including the Cocos Fire, which we're here at today, which is the No. 1 priority in the county."
Camp Pendleton Marines were expected to lend a hand by offering the use of 22 helicopters today, including 12 that would be used to help fight the Cocos Fire and other blazes, County Supervisor Bill Horn said. Marines are also fighting fires on the base.
Four Cal Fire air tankers were available for drops in the county today.
Schuler said today's goal was to keep the fire out of Harmony Grove, with an emphasis on structure protection, structure defense and perimeter control. To that end, hundreds of firefighters were brought in "fresh" today to work the incident, he said.
The Cocos Fire was law enforcement's No. 1 focus today, according to San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.
"We are watching your neighborhoods, we are protecting your property while your gone," Gore said, adding that 120 deputies were assigned to the incident.
The Cocos Fire was one of several fires to erupt within hours of each other on Wednesday amid unseasonably hot, dry and windy weather conditions. Though a red flag warning remain in effect for valley and mountain areas until 5 p.m., the National Weather Service said today's winds would be moderate compared to Wednesday's powerful gusts.
"We're very fortunate not to have the winds that we had yesterday," Horn said.
Gore said it would be premature for anyone to speculate on the cause of the Cocos Fire or any other other fires in the county.
"We just don't know at this time and I think it would be just pure speculation," Gore said when asked if any of the fires may have been deliberately set. "Sure we had a lot of fires but you have to look at the conditions we were in. The grass out there is nothing but kindling for these fires (and) we had winds at very very high speeds."
Several thousand San Marcos-area residents were evacuated Wednesday and early today. The latest evacuation orders arrived by text, emails and phone calls to residents in Questhaven, Harmony Grove and parts of Elfin Forest in San Marcos and neighboring unincorporated areas of the county, sheriff's deputies said.
Cal State San Marcos was evacuated in the hours after the fire started Wednesday. The campus will remain closed through Friday and this weekend's commencement ceremonies have been canceled, according to university officials.
Other evacuations were ordered in neighborhoods south of San Marcos Boulevard, including Coronado Hills, Discovery Hills, Discovery Meadows, Lake San Marcos and North San Elijo Hills.
Emergency shelters were open at Mission Hills High School and at San Marcos Middle School.
Road closings in effect today include:
- South Twin Oaks Valley Road at Highway 78
- Craven Road at Twin Oaks Valley Road
- Village Drive at Twin Oaks Valley Road
- San Elijo Road at Double Peak Road
- Melrose Drive at Rancho Santa Fe Road
- Melrose Drive at San Elijo Road
- San Elijo Road at Rancho Santa Fe Road
- Elfin Forest Road at Calistoga Way
- Questhaven Road at the city limit
- Coronado Hills Drive at Via Del Camp
- Fallsview Road at San Elijo Road.
—City News Service