Cooler temperatures and weakened winds have allowed firefighters to get the upper hand against a San Marcos-area wildfire that has charred more than 2,500 acres, leading them to predict that the Cocos Fire will be completely contained by Sunday.
By late Saturday, evacuation orders for residents have been lifted except those from the Coronado Hills community of San Marcos, and the county closed the last evacuation shelter in the area, at Mission Hills High School.
Ground and airborne personnel had the blaze about 70 percent surrounded by the morning, according to Cal Fire, which reported that most of the active flames had been doused by late Friday.
Earlier Friday, residents of the Lake San Marcos area were allowed back in their homes.
Evacuation notices were rescinded for communities south of state Route 78 and west of Twin Oaks Valley Road through the San Elijo community, to San Elijo at South Rancho Santa Fe, sheriff’s officials reported.
Closures remained in effect in Questhaven, south of Elfin Forest through Harmony Grove, and areas east of Twin Oaks Valley Road along Barham Drive and south into Coronado Hills.
The blaze erupted for unknown reasons near Cocos Drive about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday amid gusty winds, record-high triple-digit temperatures and extremely dry ground cover.
Since the Cocos Fire broke out, at least 76,000 alerts have been sent to residents. The total includes texts, emails and phone calls to residents, and does not translate into 76,000 people being evacuated because many residents receive alerts in multiple ways, according to county officials.
It is estimated that the fire caused nearly $3 million in damages.
An emergency shelter at Mission Hills High School in San Marcos closed Saturday evening.
The Cocos Fire was one of nearly a dozen major brush fires to break out in San Diego County since Tuesday. As other fires died down, authorities designated the Cocos Fire as their main priority Thursday morning.
Eleven single-family homes in an unincorporated area just outside San Marcos and 25 structures at the Harmony Grove Spiritual Association, a century- old church retreat, were destroyed.
Another single-family home within the city of San Marcos was also destroyed, and two others outside city limits were damaged, according to county officials.
Cal State San Marcos was evacuated shortly after the fire started. The campus was still closed as of Friday. This weekend’s commencement ceremonies have been pushed back a week, according to university officials.
Officials at Palomar Medical Center, in southeast Escondido, were ordered to shelter in place Thursday. But on Friday, all Palomar Pomerado Health facilities were open as usual.
As he had repeatedly said over the last several days, Sheriff Bill Gore stressed the importance of heeding evacuation orders until they’re officially lifted.
“There’s very specific protocol we go through, especially when we’ve had structural damage like we’ve had in San Marcos,” Gore said.
“We go in with the utility companies to make sure that everything is up and running so we’re not creating any safety hazards for people repopulating those areas.”
The cause of the blaze remained under investigation.
— City News Service
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