(USA TODAY) Firefighters mobilized more air support Thursday to battle at least seven fires raging north of San Diego that have driven thousands from their homes near the coast.
The Cocos fire in the San Marcos area, which forced the evacuation of 21,000 people on Wednesday, has destroyed 800 acres but is only 5 per cent contained, according to the Cal Fire website. Fire officials said it was their number one priority among some seven fires in the area.
Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton who are also battling an 8,000-acre fire near the military facility were expected to offer the use of 22 helicopters for the fight, including 12 earmarked for the Cocos fire alone, according to San Diego County district supervisor Bill Horn, KGTV reports.
Around San Marcos, about 10 miles inland, officials ordered another round of evacuations early Thursday as gusty winds and near 100-degree temperatures continue to plague fire teams.
In Carlsbad, city officials said the blaze -- dubbed Poinsettia fire -- was 60 per cent contained after destroying 800 acres. Legoland amusement park near the coastal town was closed because of a power outage caused by the fire, which has consumed 700 acres.
Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall said the blaze consumed an eight-unit condominium complex, as well as damaged eight homes and two businesses.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for San Diego County, which frees up special resources and funding for the firefight.
The fires, coming earlier than normal in the wildfire season, are being fed by brush and trees left brittle by prolonged drought. They are also being whipped by a Santa Ana wind system that reverses the normal flow of wind from the Pacific Ocean and creates tinderbox fire conditions.
For the first time in its 14-year-history, the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website that tracks drought, designated the entire state of California as in a severe (or worse) drought.
In San Marcos, about 200 residents of San Marcos gathered at an evacuation center in a high school in San Marcos, many from a mobile home park for senior citizens.
Alma Whisenhut, 80, packed clothing and papers for about 20 minutes after police told her and her husband to leave the mobile home park. The couple saw fast-moving flames two ridges away as they left.
"It was scary because there was so much smoke," she said.
Fire crews were also fighting flames in Carlsbad, Lompoc, Santa Paula, North Hills, Long Beach and Anaheim.
In addition to the drought, San Diego will likely break or tie a record high temperature for the fourth straight day Thursday, with afternoon temperatures surging into the mid and upper 90s, AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Thompson said.
Fortunately, temperatures are forecast to trend downward Friday through the weekend. As the wind continues to diminish and humidity levels come up heading into the weekend, the threat for new fires will lessen even more, AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Thompson reports.
Contributing: Doyle Rice in McLean, Va.; Associated Press