Smoke rises behind Palomar College. Courtesy San Marcos Fire Department

A brush fire that erupted in a botanical garden at Palomar College Thursday afternoon swept over dozens of acres on adjacent brushy hillsides, prompting evacuations in nearby residential neighborhoods but causing no reported structural damage or injuries.

The blaze erupted at the West Mission Avenue campus for unknown reasons shortly before 12:30 p.m., according to the San Marcos Fire Department.

The flames were soon spreading rapidly east of Comet Circle, moving to within about 50 yards of residences along Helmsdale and Kirkwall drives and prompting evacuations along those streets as ground crews and personnel aboard firefighting airplanes and helicopters battled the fire, SoCal Air Operations reported.

Authorities advised residents of other nearby areas that they also might have to clear out of their homes due to the blaze, dubbed the Comet Fire.

As of midafternoon, the burn area had grown to about 50 acres. By then, however, it was largely hemmed in by fire retardant dropped by the aircraft along the perimeters of the blaze.

As of 3 p.m., the crews had halted the spread of the fire, officials said.

The origin of the fire was in the Edwin and Frances Hunter Arboretum at Palomar College, according to campus officials.

“Due to the swift reaction of our facilities team to contact the fire department, the fire is not a current threat to the campus,” administrators at the college stated at 2:30 p.m.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. Jan. 14, 2021

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.