Wind-driven flames drive thousands from California homes

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(USA Today) Brushfires fanned by hot, dry winds kept firefighters busy across Southern California on Wednesday and prompted thousands of people to flee homes, schools and businesses in San Diego County.

Fire Capt. Mike Mohler said a fire at Carlsbad north of San Diego grew had consumed 100 acres and was burning out of control, prompting evacuation orders for an estimated 11,000 people.

The Legoland California Resort amusement park was evacuated after fire knocked out power lines, resport spokeswoman Julie Estrada said.

The brushfire spread to homes after starting shortly before 11 a.m. and grew rapidly, whipped by the Santa Ana wind system that reverses the normal flow of wind from the Pacific Ocean and creates tinderbox fire conditions. At the site of the Carlsbad fire, winds were 25 mph, the temperature was 100 degrees and relative humidity only 3%, extremely low, according to the National Weather Service.

Mohler, of the state firefighting agency Cal Fire, told KCAL-TV that an undetermined number of homes had burned. He said Legoland was not under immediate threat but is near the fire area. The station reported at least three nearby schools were evacuated.

TV news video from the Carlsbad area fire showed homes engulfed in flames and other neighbors struggling to protect their property.

Earlier, a fire at Camp Pendleton, the large Marine Corps base on the coast in northern San Diego County, prompted a large firefighter response. Neighboring Orange County sent a stike team with five engines and two helicopters to battle the blaze near its southern border with San Diego County.

A red flag warning indicating extreme fire conditions was scheduled to be lifted at 8 p.m., and forecasters said winds should be easing by late afternoon, a potential break for firefighters.

Another fire that broke out Tuesday in San Diego was 25% contained Wednesday after consuming 1,548 acres, said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for Cal Fire, also known as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Scores of smaller brush fires were reported all over the region.

Another fire that started Tuesday in Santa Barbara County was 50% contained after burning 600 acres, Cal Fire reported.

The Carlsbad fire resulted in more than 11,000 homes, businesses and cellphones being warned to evacuate, the San Diego County sheriff's office said.

At Camp Pendleton, home to about 42,000 military personnel, employees of a naval weapons station, residents of base housing development and an elementary school were told to evacuate. Marine Sgt. Irons told USA TODAY the Pendleton evacuation effort included residents of DeLuz base housing, personnel at Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook and students and staff at Mary Fay Pendleton Elementary School.

The website for Mary Fay Pendleton School contained the message that the school "is currently being evacuated. We are encouraging parents to NOT pick up their students at the school. Children at MFP will be evacuated to Paige Fieldhouse on base. Parent calls are being sent now."

The DeLuz compound includes more than 400 homes. The development's website claims to "mark a new approach to military housing. Our community breaks away from the simple housing tracts of the past and embraces the modern lifestyles of family living."

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