Homes Burn as Fire Rages Through San Diego Suburb

Most of the structures destroyed or damaged were on Aviara Parkway and Black Rail Road

By R. Stickney
|  Thursday, May 15, 2014  |  Updated 12:22 PM EDT
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Carlsbad residents Adam and Andrew Gilmore talk about losing their family home on Black Rail Road to the Poinsettia Fire on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

Carlsbad residents Adam and Andrew Gilmore talk about losing their family home on Black Rail Road to the Poinsettia Fire on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

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Poinsettia Fire Jumps El Camino Real

NBC 7's Greg Bledsoe reports from El Camino Real just before noon on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.
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UPDATE - as of Thursday, 7 a.m.:

  • 60% contained
  • 400 acres burned
  • 22 units destroyed (Condo complex w/18 units and 4 single family homes)
  • 300 firefighters on fire line this morning
  • Still working to restore power (El Camino area to Black Rail Road)
     

The Poinsettia Fire burned homes and an apartment complex in Carlsbad as it spread Wednesday to more than 400 acres, prompting the evacuation of thousands of residents north of San Diego.

City officials said Wednesday evening that eight structures, an 18-unit apartment complex and two commercial buildings were destroyed in the Poinsettia Fire, which sparked early Wednesday. So far, the blaze is responsible for an estimated $22.5 million in damage.

As of 12:30 a.m., the fire was 50 percent contained. The flames were still making a determined -- albeit slower-- march west as winds died down. 

“I question whether or not six fires haven’t been set by somebody. That’s just my thought,” said County Supervisor Bill Horn. “But I’ve never seen anything like this in 20 years.”

Map of Wildfire Activity and Open Shelters

Complete List of School Closures | List of Areas Under Evacuation

Mandatory evacuations were ordered for homes from west of El Fuerte Road, south of Palomar Airport Road, north of Aviara Parkway and west to the coast. AlertSanDiego reports it has notified 15,000 homes, businesses and cell phones to evacuate in the city of Carlsbad.

But as of 10:15 p.m., residents in the area east of El Camino Real and south of Alga Road were allowed to go back home.

At 10:45 p.m., evacuations were lifted along Aviara Parkway from Poinsettia to Ambrosia. 

People can also return in the area south of Aviara Parkway and the following streets north of Aviara Parkway: Blackrail, Nightshade, Tohee, Cormorant and Baccharis. 

All hotels on Palomar Airport Road near the airport have reopened.

Governor Jerry Brown has issued a state of emergency declaration due to at least eight wildland fires burning, including those in Carlsbad, San Marcos Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton.

An NBC 7 News crew captured video of two homes along Black Rail Road near Sapphire that burned to the ground.

Adam Gilmore was sad to find out his house was "chosen" by the fire but he was also glad that other homes on the street were spared.

“It’s one of those weird things where you see it on the news. You see it on TV and movies and it’s weird to look at your own house be like ‘That’s no longer my home,’” Gilmore said.

“That kind of brings this weird feeling. It’s not sadness, it’s not depression but it’s just this weird feeling that this is the end,” he said.

On Skimmer Court in the Aviara area, NBC 7 caught up with a homeowner who was watching fire crews hose down what was left of his 1960s Weir Brothers custom-built adobe home.

Greg Skaska lived in the home for more than 30 years and said when he realized the fire was threatening the house, he had no time to grab any personal things.

“No time. We had to leave. But it’s OK. I'm alive," he said.

Another home at 1570 Martingale Court off Sapphire Drive caught fire while homes on the right and left of the house went untouched.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” a neighbor, Kevin, told NBC 7. “I feel so terrible for these homeowners.”

Carlsbad Fire Chief Michael Davis said 23,000 phone calls had gone out to warn residents about the fire, a combination of mandatory evacuation orders, information and other calls.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler said the fire is not something crews normally see in June, July, in August, not in May.

“Not only were firefighters trying to engage the fire but doing their best to get people out of their homes effectively and safely,” Schuler said.

The Windsor at Aviara Apartments, located near Ambrosia and Poinsettia lanes, caught fire later in the afternoon.

NBC 7 News crews arrived on scene just as Sound-Elkin -- a veterinary ultrasound practice -- erupted in flames. Helicopters had to do water drops on the structure because firefighters were having a hard time attacking the fire from the ground.

Carlsbad police officers said the Poinsettia Fire sparked around 10:40 a.m. at Alicante and Poinsettia Lane and moved quickly.

Within an hour a line of flames was burning toward El Camino Real near Poinsettia Lane and Jasper Way.

Residents from the Cassia Heights apartments were evacuated. Other homeowners stopped to talk with NBC 7 News crews, describing how they had time to grab just a few things – documents, photos and pets – before fleeing the area.

Two men who identified themselves as Ryan and Adam were going door to door in the area east of Blackrail Road to knock on doors and help people evacuate.

One homeowner was panicked as the palm trees in her backyard were engulfed in flames, they said.

“I ran back inside and went back up to her and said ‘We need to leave right now,’” Adam said. “We were able to get her daughters and dogs out in time.”

Calavera Hills Community Center, at 2997 Glasgow, was opened as a shelter location. Pets are welcome.

Poinsettia Elementary was evacuated to Carrillo Elementary School at 2875 Poinsettia Lane, San Marcos. Aviara Oaks Elementary and Middle schools were evacuated to the Sunrise Retirement Community on Manzanita Street, Carlsbad.

Carlsbad schools superintendent Suzanne Lovely said police and firefighters have helped move students to safety.

“We were able to safely evacuate three of our schools that were in the path of the fire,” Lovely said.

All schools will be closed Thursday and Friday and will resume on Monday, school officials said. According to the city, all Carlsbad Parks and Recreation facilities -- except the Carlsbad Senior Center -- will also be closed Thursday. 

All flights in and out of Palomar Airport have also been canceled, and the FAA has issued a temporary flight restriction in that air space overnight. 

Westfield Plaza Camino Real was serving as a temporary evacuation point for people and animals, but it was closed around 10:15 p.m. 

Instead, evacuees are being moved to Calavera Hills Community Center at 2997 Glasgow Dr. and La Costa Canyon High School at 1 Maverick Way.

Animals like dogs, cats and rabbits will be accepted only at the Calavera Hills Community Center.   

Park Hyatt Aviara, located just a few miles from where the fire sparked, was under mandatory evacuated. Guests and staff were under mandatory evacuations, a staff member told NBC 7.

Earlier in the day, La Costa Resort said its number one priority is keep guests calm.

LEGOLAND California posted a message to its Facebook page saying the park had to evacuate rides because of power outages caused by fires.

Callaway Golf and Titlelist Golf were evacuated as well, according to employees who spoke with an NBC 7 crew.

The Carlsbad Premium Outlets also closed. 

Interstate 5 southbound and northbound offramps were closed at Palomar Airport Road.

Diane Wood, a Carlsbad resident, said she is about two to three miles from the fire.

“It’s rather threatening. Everyone is coming out of their businesses and looking as the smoke is approaching their area,” she said. “It’s pretty scary."

San Diego Gas & Electric said it has shut off power to some customers in San Diego County for public safety purposes.

About 3,000 SDG&E customers were out of service due to the fire. Crews are working to restore power as soon as it is safe to do so, the utility said in a statement.

For the latest information on where outages are occurring, visit SDG&E’s outage map.

Due to the fast-burning fire burning in the Carlsbad, several transmission lines tripped offline.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

NBC Primetime is moving to COZI-TV. COZI-TV can be found on COX Cable at 807, Time Warner Cable at 253 and Over the Air at 39.2. Also, "Days of Our Lives" will air on NBC 7 at 3 a.m.

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