ESCONDIDO – As Cal Fire crews began setting up a new encampment at Kit Carson Park to house the larger number of fire fighters coming in on Thursday, local city and Cal Fire officials held a press conference to update media on the Cocos Fire.
The fire, which began on Wednesday in the San Marcos/ Escondido area, has currently burned 1,200 acres and on Thursday night was listed at 5 percent contained.
There’ve been three home structures destroyed and two residences damaged so far.
Cal Fire Assistant Region Chief Thom Porter said that building codes and standards, which have strengthened over the last 10 years and the defensible spaces, led to saving people’s homes in numbers they haven’t seen before.
On Thursday morning 22 military aircraft had also joined in the firefighting efforts.
When asked why the military aircraft weren’t called in sooner, Porter said it took time for the military to “stand up and get authorized to be utilized off of the military base.”
He said they had the military helicopters flying in less than 24 hours.
“We’re seeing an unfortunate effect of what’s happening with this drought,” he said. “This last 12 months has been extremely dry, and to the point where we have dead vegetation and fuels that are very volatile. That coupled with the unseasonal weather that we’re having – this is a Santa Ana (winds) that we normally wouldn’t see until September, October, November.”
Cal Fire Incident Commander Todd Derum said any origin of the blaze is still under investigation.
Previous reports of an arson suspect being taken into custody turned out to be incorrect, according to Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter. He said a resident flagged down officers, alerting them to a “suspicious” individual near Citracado Parkway. Officers detained the individual, who was questioned by the city’s arson investigation team.
“I can tell you without a doubt that the individual was not involved in any of the fires, and was released without anything other than a field interview,” Carter said.
Carter and other law officials encourage the public to reach out to report any information or suspicious activities by calling (619) 235-8477.
Since 1:30 p.m. the Sheriff’s department had made 15,960 reverse 9-1-1 calls asking people to evacuate their residences, said Mike Barnett, commander with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. He urged residents that received evacuation notices to do so for the safety of all involved.
Barnett said that there were 228 deputies dedicated to the Cocos Fire at roadblocks or patrolling neighborhoods to prevent any looting, burglaries or vandalism. He said there haven’t been any reports of those types thus far.
According to Rocky Chavez, state assembly member of District 76, there was one report from a helicopter pilot making a water scoop over Lake Hodges about an unmanned aerial vehicle (a radio controlled quad copter) in the area trying to take pictures, causing a potential safety risk.
He added that Gov. Jerry Brown is putting a plan together to increase nearly an additional $60 million over this year from last year. “This is going to be a long season. It’s important that we always keep public safety in mind.”
The emergency room at Palomar Medical Center is closed, said Tom Stinson, principal field representative for state Assembly member Marie Waldron, They’re asking that emergency patients be taken to the downtown Escondido Palomar Health campus at 555 E. Valley Parkway.
He added that one evacuation center for large animals remains open, the Cloverdale Ranch at 2460 Cloverdale Rd. in Escondido.
Sam Abed, mayor of Escondido, said they are making progress with the fire. “We have set a buffer here, we are making progress on that front, and also we are making sure Palomar Hospital is protected and this entire area of Escondido are protected.”
This post has been changed since its original posting. The Cocos Fire is currently being listed at 5 percent contained, not 10 percent as originally reported.
School districts in the area that will remain closed Friday include:
Bonsall Union School District
Carlsbad Unified School District
Escondido Union Elementary
Escondido Union High
Fallbrook Union Elementary
Fallbrook Union High
Oceanside Unified School District
San Marcos Unified
San Pasqual Union
Valley Center/Pauma Unified