More Than A Dozen Residences Destroyed or Damaged in Carlsbad - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

More Than A Dozen Residences Destroyed or Damaged in Carlsbad Fire

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CARLSBAD (CNS) - A wind-driven brush fire tore through Carlsbad Wednesday, damaging or destroying more than a dozen residences, downing power lines and forcing evacuations of thousands of residents, students and tourists at the Legoland amusement park.

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, with the first reports of homes burning coming about 12:30 p.m.

By late afternoon, the flames had spread over at least 100 acres, destroyed eight houses and at least one business, and heavily damaged an eight-unit apartment complex, officials said. The apartment complex is called The Windsor at Aviara, which is at Poinsettia Lane and Cassia Road.

Neighborhoods along Aviara Parkway and Black Rail Road sustained most of the damage, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler said.

As of 3 p.m., crews had stopped the spread of the blaze, dubbed the Poinsettia Fire, though some areas were still actively burning, Schuler said. No injuries were reported.

The burn area was about 10 percent contained as of 6:30 p.m., Carlsbad Fire Chief Michael Davis told reporters.

The city issued 15,000 evacuation notices to residents west of El Fuerte Road, south of Palomar Airport Road and north of Aviara Parkway. A temporary shelter for the displaced was set up at Westfield Plaza Camino Real mall, 2525 El Camino Real.

"If you have been asked to evacuate, please do so," Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler 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.

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 not in 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."

More than 150 firefighters battled the blaze, Davis said during a mid-afternoon briefing.

The chief said it was unclear when the evacuations would be lifted.

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