Southern California is bracing for what could be yet another day of extreme wildfires after several blazes erupted across San Diego County on Tuesday and Wednesday, scorching more than 9,000 acres and destroying numerous structures, including an eight-unit apartment complex in the coastal city of Carlsbad in northern San Diego County.
“It’s like a scene from Armageddon,” one homeowner described the setting on Wednesday to Los Angeles Times.
Raw footage of one of the San Diego fire outbreaks was posted to YouTube on Wednesday. According to the description, the video was shot in Carlsbad and appears to have been filmed with a cell phone camera. The footage, seen below, shows massive clouds of black smoke billowing from orange and yellow flames dangerously close to a row of terra-cotta-roofed homes.
It’s unclear whether the homes in the video were burned, but reports indicate that at least eight residences in Carlsbad were damaged in the fire, dubbed the Poinsettia fire.
Cooler overnight temperatures and calmer winds allowed firefighters to contain about 60 percent of the fire in Carlsbad by 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning, according to NBC San Diego, but officials fear that high temperatures and winds on Thursday could cause more breakouts.
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Thousands of homes, a nuclear power plant, a university campus and parts of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base were evacuated Wednesday after nine brush fires broke out in northern San Diego County and spread at a dangerous pace. Hot, dry winds and record temperatures fueled the flames that caused massive traffic jams and threatened communities in Carlsbad, San Marcos and the surrounding areas.
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday issued a state of emergency declaration for San Diego County. No injuries have been reported, but officials ordered another round of evacuations early Thursday north of San Diego.
The latest evacuations orders were issued for the areas of Questhaven, Harmony Grove and parts of Elfin Forest near San Marcos, according to USA Today.
The blaze is responsible for an estimated $22.5 million in damages so far.
According to the state Office of Emergency Services, federal aid will be made available to crews fighting the Carlsbad, San Diego, fire.
"We welcome FEMA's approval of Governor Brown's request for assistance," state Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci told reporters. "Fires like the Poinsettia Fire can put a strain on resources, particularly at a time when dry conditions due to the drought, above normal temperatures and winds have increased the wildfire threat significantly."
The fires in northern San Diego erupted months before the traditional height of California’s wildfire season, causing some speculation that the fires were no accident. Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the fires, but say that nothing like this has been witnessed in 20 years.
"I'm sure it could be by chance," San Diego County District Supervisor Bill Horn said Wednesday, according to CNN. "... I just think there's too much of a coincidence here."
California fire season typically peaks later in the summer and into the fall. This year, droughts across California have exacerbated fire concerns and left hills and valleys dangerously dry. State fire crews have already battled over 1,200 blazes in foothill areas – more than twice the average for this time of year, according to San Francisco Gate.
"This is only going to get worse,” CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray said of California’s approaching fire season.