California Wildfires Turn Deadly After Firefighters Find Badly Burned Body

  @ZoeMintzz.mintz@ibtimes.com on May 16 2014 8:18 AM
fire
Smoke from the Cocos fire in San Marcos, California, heads into Escondido. Reuters

Southern California wildfires have turned deadly after firefighters recovered a badly burned body from a transient encampment.

The city of Carlsbad said firefighters found the body when checking hotspots in a fire that began a day earlier. The body hasn't been identified, CBS News reported Friday.

This appears to be the first fatality in a series of wildfires that have hit the San Diego area, forcing as many as 125,000 people to flee their homes. At least eight homes, an 18-unit condominium complex and two businesses have been destroyed in the nine wildfires, some of which have been extinguished. More than 15 square miles have been destroyed, causing more than $20 million in damage so far. 

Firefighters made some progress Thursday. Temperatures and winds have started to subside, which may help their efforts. The main focus is the 1,200-acre Cocos fire, which has been threatening the northern San Diego county communities of San Marcos and Escondido since it broke out Wednesday.

In the South Escondido area, about 30 miles north of San Diego, witnesses saw two people trying to set fires. It led to the arrest of two teenagers Thursday night for allegedly starting a brush fire.

About 15,000 Escondido residents have been evacuated. A 12-story hospital, Palomar Medical Center West, was included in the evacuation zone but that facility wasn't evacuated.

Investigators continued to search for the cause of the wildfires, which have spread from one community to another. They have spawned "firenadoes," which are funnels of flames that look like tornadoes.

"We all have suspicions, like the public does, when you have nine fires that started all over the county," San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.

The Cocos fire was at least 5 percent contained by late Thursday evening, Cal Fire, the state's department of forestry and fire protection services, said. About 1,600 San Marcos residents were allowed to return home to specific areas, the sheriff's department said early Friday.

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