Cooler temperatures and weakened winds have allowed firefighters to get the upper hand against a San Marcos-area wildfire that has charred more than 2,500 acres, and some evacuees have been allowed to return home.
By Friday evening, ground and airborne personnel had the blaze about 50 percent surrounded, according to Cal Fire, which reported that most of the active flames had been doused by late Friday.
Earlier Friday, residents of the Lake San Marcos area were allowed back in their homes. Evacuation notices were rescinded for communities south of state Route 78 and west of Twin Oaks Valley Road through the San Elijo community, to San Elijo at South Rancho Santa Fe, sheriff's officials reported.
Closures remained in effect in Questhaven, south of Elfin Forest through Harmony Grove, and areas east of Twin Oaks Valley Road along Barham Drive and south into Coronado Hills.
The blaze erupted for unknown reasons near Cocos Drive about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday amid gusty winds, record-high triple-digit temperatures and extremely dry ground cover.
Since the Cocos Fire broke out, at least 76,000 alerts have been sent to residents. The total includes texts, emails and phone calls to residents, and does not translate into 76,000 people being evacuated because many residents receive alerts in multiple ways, according to county officials.
For those still under evacuation orders, an emergency shelter remained open at Mission Hills High School in San Marcos.
The Cocos Fire was one of nearly a dozen major brush fires to break out in San Diego County since Tuesday. As other fires died down, authorities designated the Cocos Fire as their main priority Thursday morning.
At least three homes have been destroyed and one other damaged by the fire. However, the official count is expected to increase once the fire is better contained and authorities can better assess the damage.
Cal State San Marcos was evacuated shortly after the fire started. The campus was still closed as of Friday. This weekend's commencement ceremonies have been pushed back a week, according to university officials.
Officials at Palomar Medical Center, in southeast Escondido, were ordered to shelter in place Thursday. But on Friday, all Palomar Pomerado Health facilities were open as usual.
As he had repeatedly said over the last several days, Sheriff Bill Gore stressed the importance of heeding evacuation orders until they're officially lifted.
"There's very specific protocol we go through, especially when we've had structural damage like we've had in San Marcos," Gore said.
"We go in with the utility companies to make sure that everything is up and running so we're not creating any safety hazards for people repopulating those areas."
The cause of the blaze remained under investigation.
—City News Service