San Diego County officials have ordered mandatory evacuations due to a fast-moving fire fanned by Santa Ana winds, which so far burned 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of land only hours after starting.
State fire authorities said that the wildfire, which was reported 11 a.m. Thursday, has to date destroyed more than five buildings, as more than 1,000 others are threatened around Bonsall – the picturesque community of 4,000 people amid rolling hills that is known for its equestrian facilities.
Officials also shut down state Highway 76 in both directions, and opened shelters at schools and casinos to accommodate evacuees around Bonsall.
State officials said the military was assisting firefighter with helicopters, as the affected area is near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base.
This wildfire in San Diego County is the latest wind-driven fire in Southern California, including destructive blazes to the northwest in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
In Los Angeles County, firefighters were watching for flare-ups as they try to contain three major blazes that have destroyed homes and sent thousands fleeing. Residents were ordered to evacuate a tiny beachfront community northwest of Los Angeles where a huge wildfire has been churning down hillsides toward seaside homes.
Officials also intermittently closed on Thursday a key stretch of US 101, cutting off a major route between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, as flames charred heavy brush along the roads and jumped lanes.
Meanwhile, a text alert about dangerous fire weather conditions was sent to 12 million Southern Californians in seven counties – the widest ever issued by the state Office of Emergency Services.
Winds early Thursday turned out not to be as dire as predicted, but Emergency Service Deputy Director Kelly Huston said the office erred on the side of caution because conditions were similar to those that led to 44 deaths in fires that broke out across Northern California last October 8.
Huston said he would rather be criticized for potentially annoying someone than for not delivering a critical alert.
Some Northern Californians complained they never received evacuation alerts as the firestorms developed, and state lawmakers on Thursday announced plans to introduce legislation establishing statewide emergency alert protocols. /kga