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Grady Chase, 4, checks out the steering capacity of an old-fashioned fire truck. Photo by Rachel Stine
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Community comes together after fires

CARLSBAD — “The gratitude part is an awkward part for any fire fighter,” explained Carlsbad Fire Chief Mike Davis Saturday morning.

Standing in the midst of hundreds of smiling community members socializing with fire fighters and law enforcement, he explained that Carlsbad’s Community Appreciate Day on May 31 was not designed for the responders to the fire of weeks past. He said the event was more intended to help the community recover from the Poinsettia Fire that raged through Carlsbad.

The Poinsettia fire began on May 14 near Poinsettia Lane and Alicante and scorched about 600 acres by the time it was put out three days later.

One person perished in the blaze. Eight homes, two apartment complexes, and two commercial buildings were destroyed.

Three schools–Aviara Oaks Elementary, Aviara Oaks Middle, and Poinsettia Elementary–were evacuated in the middle of the school day on the first day of the fire.

Battalion chief Mike Lopez, who worked as the incident commander, said that the fire department was able to focus on containing the blaze thanks to local residents’ cooperation.

“The community did an amazing job. They headed our warning when evacuated,” he said.

He highlighted how well students, school staff and parents of the three schools that were evacuated followed officials’ instructions during such a rapidly developing situation.

City officials also praised Carlsbad’s citizens and businesses for their assistance during the emergency.

About 50 trained volunteers from the city’s Community Emergency Response Team helped establish and run shelters, collect and transfer supplies, and complete administrative operations for the city.

Chris Hazeltine, Carlsbad’s Parks and Recreation Director, realized at about 11 p.m. on the first evening of the fire that he needed to find a way to feed the over 400 fire fighters who were responding to the fire.

Calls to businesses including the La Costa Resort, Sheraton, Stater Brothers, and local restaurants, ensured that there were piping hot breakfast burritos for the crews at 6 a.m. the next morning.

Though officials directed much credit to the community, many residents attended the event to personally thank the emergency responders.

Tracey Girard, who lives with her family near where the blaze hit at Black Rail and Poinsettia Lane, said she wanted to tell responders what an incredible job they did protecting Carlsbad.

“To see the blackened canyons and see all the homes that were saved… it’s like a magic trick,” she said.