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Last updated at 9:51 p.m. May 14, 2014
Wildfires claimed more than 9,000 acres in San Diego County on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, ravaging homes and forcing several thousand residents and employees to evacuate.
The combined acreage of the Bernardo Fire, the Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad, the Tomahawk Fire on Camp Pendleton, the Highway Fire in the Fallbrook/Bonsall area, as well as brush fires in San Marcos, Escondido, Lakeside and Scripps Ranch, was provided during a televised press conference held Wednesday evening.
Of most concern overnight is the Cocos Fire in San Marcos, officials said. As of 9:30 p.m., it was 450 acres and three homes had been destroyed.
California State University, San Marcos ordered evacuation of its campus at 4 p.m. Other areas evacuated in San Marcos included North San Elijo Hills, Discovery Hills, Discovery Meadows and Coronado Hills, according to a tweet sent by the City of San Marcos.
CSUSM canceled graduation and commencement ceremonies that were scheduled for Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17, because of the fires ravaging the region, the university stated on its website.
“The safety of our students, faculty, staff and their families is our primary concern,” CSUSM officials stated.
Additionally, it closed its Temecula campus for the remainder of the week.
Officials said the firefighting effort would continue through the night with the help of 17 helicopters, 10 of which are military. A DC-10 plane also arrived to assist. More aircraft was scheduled to arrive Thursday.
While the total number of evacuees was not clear, officials said 121,878 contacts received emergency notifications through Alert San Diego.
Wednesday morning, Reverse 911 notified 11,600 homes to evacuate in the city of Carlsbad. Eight homes, an apartment complex and a commercial structure had burned as of Wednesday evening, Carlsbad officials reported.
Evacuations were ordered on Camp Pendleton as the Tomahawk Fire broke out at about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday near the Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook. The fire had grown to 6,000 acres as of 6 p.m. with no word on containment.
And residents in Escondido were evacuated Wednesday afternoon when a fire erupted near Bear Valley Parkway and East Grand Avenue, NBC7 San Diego reported.
Just before 3:30 p.m., Cal Trans tweeted that further north, Interstate 15 was closed in both directions in the vicinity of Highway 76 in Fallbrook. Eastbound Old Highway 395 was closed at Mission Road; westbound Highway 76 was closed at Old Highway 395.
But by 5 p.m., the closures of I-15 and 76 had been lifted.
Fueled by heat, high winds and one of the driest weather years on record, the rash of fires began Tuesday with the 1,500-acre Bernardo Fire that as of Wednesday morning was 25 percent contained.
Large plumes of smoke from the Highway and Tomahawk fires were visible from Temecula and Murrieta in southwest Riverside County, but Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department reported there was no immediate threat locally.
San Diego County filed a proclamation with California Gov. Jerry Brown so it may more easily access state and federal resources as needed to help fight the fires. The proclamation states that more than 20 structures, including homes, have been destroyed, according to SDCountyEmergency.com.
School districts in the fire-affected areas have canceled classes for Thursday. For a full list of school closures, go to SDcoe.net.
A fire official who spoke during a televised press conference from Carlsbad said he questioned “whether or not the fires were set by somebody.” Each blaze was being investigated as a “crime scene,” officials said, not ruling out the possibility of arson.
San Diego County residents were urged to “stay off the freeways if you don’t need to be there,” presumably to keep traffic to a minimum for evacuees and public safety personnel.
Law enforcement said they would continue to patrol evacuated areas. San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said looting in the fire-affected areas would “not be tolerated” and that it was punishable as a felony.
Three injuries were reported as a result of the Bernardo Fire; it is unknown if other injuries have been suffered.
Temecula residents: Have you registered your cell phone for Reverse 911?
For updated such as evacuations and road closures, go to SDCountyEmergency.com.
Also check back with Temecula Grapevine for updates.
—Maggie Avants reported from Temecula.