A wind-driven brush fire tore through Carlsbad Wednesday, burning dozens of homes, downing power lines and forcing evacuations of thousands of residents, students and tourists at the Legoland amusement park.

The city of Carlsbad issued evacuation orders for several neighborhoods east of Aviara Parkway just before 4:30 p.m., though details were not immediately available.

By early evening the Carlsbad Unified School District had cancelled classes at all its schools for Thursday and Friday. At about 4:30 the district reported no school structures had been damaged.

Evacuation shelters were set up at Calaveras Hills Community Center for residents and pets, and at Westfield Plaza Camino Real for residents and larger animals such as livestock, according to 211 San Diego. La Costa Canyon High School is also open as a shelter for people only, no pets.

The blaze broke out for unknown reasons shortly after 10:30 a.m. near Poinsettia Lane and Alicante Road, just east of El Camino Real. Winds quickly pushed the flames west toward neighborhoods and some high-tech businesses.

Smoke from the Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad could be seen for miles, including this view from Solana Beach. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Smoke from the Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad could be seen for miles, including this view from Solana Beach. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Homes were burning by 12:30 p.m., and reports from the scene also indicated that flames damaged Aviara Community Park.

By mid-afternoon, according to Cal Fire, the flames had spread over at least 250 acres and destroyed as many as 30 homes, apparently off Pointsettia Lane. Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler said that as of 2:15 p.m., no injuries to civilians or firefighters had been reported, but Mohler stressed that “it’s a very dynamic situation, a very dangerous situation.”

” … If you have been asked to evacuate, please do so,” he said. “You may not see smoke immediately in your neighborhood. But … with a wind- driven fire, we have to look ahead of this at where it might go.”

More than 11,600 residences and businesses received “reverse 911” calls urging the occupants to leave, county officials said. An evacuation center was set up at Westfield Plaza Camino Real mall, 2525 El Camino Real.

Mohler said firefighters were up against extreme conditions.

“The city of Carlsbad has done very well in clearing (brush around) those homes, but when you have a wind-driven fire, it makes it very difficult,” he said. “This is a very difficult firefight. This is an urban wildland firefight, so it is definitely more difficult than you would see in a more rural setting.”

Among sites evacuated were Aviara Oaks elementary and middle schools, and Poinsettia Elementary, according to Carlsbad Unified School District officials, who stated that students were in no danger.

Aviara Oaks students were taken to the Brighton Gardens Senior Center at El Camino Real and Aviara Parkway, while Poinsettia Elementary pupils were transported to Carrillo Elementary School at 2875 Poinsettia Lane in San Marcos.

The fire was somewhat close to McClellan-Palomar Airport, but flight operations were not significantly affected, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Aircraft were being directed around the smoke, he said.

Dove Library, Aviara Community Park and Alga Norte Community Park were closed, and Legoland California was evacuated as a safety precaution because of electrical power surges, officials said.

The blaze came amid a heat wave that was pushing temperatures well into the 90s along the coast. Winds, however, were not as strong as on Tuesday, when a wildfire charred nearly 1,600 acres between 4S Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe.

“We say all Southern California is in year-round fire season and this is unfortunately a perfect example,” Mohler said. “We have an offshore wind where some of our coastal communities have higher temperatures than our inland communities, so traditional Santa Anas and then the winds and our low humidity – – it’s just unfortunately a recipe for a large fire, and that’s what we’re seeing right now.”

He noted that a Red Flag warning for many areas of Southern California is expected to expire at 8  tonight, “but we have to remind citizens … that regardless of (when) it expires, we are still going to have the high temperatures into the triple digits with single-digit humidities, so we have a few days to look at … extreme weather.”

–City News Service

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