Wildfire forces 20,000 evacuations near San Diego

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Wildfire forces 20,000 evacuations near San Diego
A Firefighter puts water on a house fence during a wildfire Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. More wildfires broke out Wednesday in San Diego County — threatening homes in Carlsbad and forcing the evacuations of military housing and an elementary school at Camp Pendleton — as Southern California is in the grip of a heat wave. (AP Photo)
A Firefighter puts water on a house fence during a wildfire Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. More wildfires broke out Wednesday in San Diego County — threatening homes in Carlsbad and forcing the evacuations of military housing and an elementary school at Camp Pendleton — as Southern California is in the grip of a heat wave. (AP Photo)
Firefighters knock out a flare up where a brush fire roared through a section of San Diego's north county, Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in San Diego. Weather conditions that at least temporarily calmed allowed firefighters to gain ground early Wednesday on a pair of wildfires that forced thousands of residents to leave their homes. (AP Photo)
A firefighter pours water onto a fully engulfed home Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. A brush fire Wednesday forced evacuation of thousands of people in the city of Carlsbad where at least two homes burned amid a Southern California heat wave that sparked several blazes. (AP Photo)
A fireman carries his shovel up a path as extreme winds bend the shrubbery behind him Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in San Diego. Winds estimated by fire personnel in excess of 50 mph are blowing through the area and causing flare ups from the fire that started yesterday. (AP Photo)
A Carlsbad,Calif. police officer turns traffic away as flames leap behind him Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. Weather conditions that at least temporarily calmed allowed firefighters to gain ground early Wednesday on a pair of wildfires that forced thousands of residents to leave their homes. (AP Photo)
A fire truck send a powerful stream of water at a fully engulfed home as smoke rises from behind during a wildfire Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. Carlsbad city officials said mandatory evacuations were in progress Wednesday, and more than 11,000 notices were sent to homes and businesses. (AP Photo)
A fireman drags a hose as smoke rises from a nearby wildfire Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. Carlsbad city officials said mandatory evacuations were in progress Wednesday, and more than 11,000 notices were sent to homes and businesses. (AP Photo)
A home is fully engulfed in flames as a wildfire burns Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. Carlsbad city officials said mandatory evacuations were in progress Wednesday, and more than 11,000 notices were sent to homes and businesses. (AP Photo)
A helicopter drops a fire retardant on a wild fire Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. Wind-driven flames are threatening homes in the coastal city of Carlsbad, where officials have sent mandatory evacuation notices to more than 11,000 homes and businesses. (AP Photo)
Powerful streams of water mix with billowing smoke from a home as a wildfire burns Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. Carlsbad city officials said mandatory evacuations were in progress Wednesday, and more than 11,000 notices were sent to homes and businesses. (AP Photo)
A wild fire burns toward a Aviara Oaks Middle School Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. Wind-driven flames are threatening homes in the coastal city of Carlsbad, where officials have sent mandatory evacuation notices to more than 11,000 homes and businesses. (AP Photo)
A wildfire climbs a canyon toward homes Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. More wildfires broke out Wednesday in San Diego County — threatening homes in Carlsbad and forcing the evacuations of military housing and an elementary school at Camp Pendleton — as Southern California is in the grip of a heat wave. (AP Photo)
Wildfire climbs a canyon toward homes Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. More wildfires broke out Wednesday in San Diego County, threatening homes in Carlsbad and forcing the evacuations of military housing and an elementary school at Camp Pendleton , as Southern California is in the grip of a heat wave. (AP Photo)
A helicopter attacks a wildfire burning in the north county of San Diego Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires pushed by gusty winds chewed through canyons parched by California's drought, prompting evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes on the outskirts of San Diego and another 1,200 homes and businesses in Santa Barbara County 250 miles to the north. (AP Photo)
A helicopter flies over burning vegetation as it nears homes Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in Carlsbad, Calif. More wildfires broke out Wednesday in San Diego County — threatening homes in Carlsbad and forcing the evacuations of military housing and an elementary school at Camp Pendleton — as Southern California is in the grip of a heat wave. (AP Photo)
Smoke rises as firefighters work in the brush as two fire fighting helicopters pass each other above one of the colossal homes of Fairbanks Ranch where a wild fire threatened homes Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. (Wildfires pushed by gusty winds chewed through canyons parched by California’s drought, prompting evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes on the outskirts of San Diego and another 1,200 homes and businesses in Santa Barbara County 250 miles to the north. (AP Photo)
Anthony Novom waters down smoldering vegetation surrounding his home in the Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood during a wildfire Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires pushed by gusty winds chewed through canyons parched by California's drought, prompting evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes on the outskirts of San Diego and another 1,200 homes and businesses in Santa Barbara County 250 miles to the north. (AP Photo)
A helicopter drops water on the grounds surrounding one of the luxury homes of the Fairbanks Ranch area where a wild fire threaten homes Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires pushed by gusty winds chewed through canyons parched by California’s drought, prompting evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes on the outskirts of San Diego and another 1,200 homes and businesses in Santa Barbara County 250 miles to the north. (AP Photo)
Jack Elkins gestures as he looks at his backyard fruit trees, ravaged by wildfire Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires pushed by gusty winds chewed through canyons parched by California's drought, prompting evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes on the outskirts of San Diego and another 1,200 homes and businesses in Santa Barbara County 250 miles to the north. (AP Photo)
Firefighters look on as a helicopter drops water on a wildfire in the Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires pushed by gusty winds chewed through canyons parched by California's drought, prompting evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes on the outskirts of San Diego and another 1,200 homes and businesses in Santa Barbara County 250 miles to the north. (AP Photo)
A helicopter drops water on a wildfire in the Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires pushed by gusty winds chewed through canyons parched by California's drought, prompting evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes on the outskirts of San Diego and another 1,200 homes and businesses in Santa Barbara County 250 miles to the north. (AP Photo)
A helicopter drops water on a wildfire in the Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires pushed by gusty winds chewed through canyons parched by California's drought, prompting evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes on the outskirts of San Diego and another 1,200 homes and businesses in Santa Barbara County 250 miles to the north. (AP Photo)
Billowing smoke rises from flames as firefighters begin the trek up the hills to battle a wild fire, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)
Billowing smoke rises from flames as firefighters begin the trek up the hills to battle a wild fire, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)
Smoke rises from a canyon where a wild fire is burning Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)
A lone tree stands in the path of approaching flames as wild fire burns through a canyon Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)
Firefighters face a huge smoke cloud as they plan their attack on a wild fire Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)
A helicopter attacks a wild fire burning Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)
California firefighters arrive to assist local fire personnel in a battle against a wild fire Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)
Firefighters battle a wild fire in the Santa Luz area of San Diego Tuesday, May 13, 2014. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)
Flames grow as a wild fire burns out-of-control in the north county area of San Diego Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in San Diego. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)
Firefighters battle a wild fire in the Santa Luz area of San Diego Tuesday, May 13, 2014. Wildfires destroyed a home and forced the evacuation of several others Tuesday in California as a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to a parched state that should be in the middle of its rainy season. (AP Photo)
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SAN DIEGO (AP) - Wildfires pushed by gusty winds chewed through canyons parched by California's drought, prompting evacuation orders for more than 20,000 homes on the outskirts of San Diego and another 1,200 homes and businesses in Santa Barbara County 250 miles to the north.

No homes were reported damaged in either fire, but hundreds were considered threatened. The rugged terrain and unseasonably warm temperatures made firefighting even more difficult.

The flames that erupted in the fire-prone Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego quickly grew to 700 acres, driven by hot, dry Santa Ana winds that whipped through areas dotted by hilltop estates and pricey new housing tracts.

Black and gray smoke billowed over the area, filled with whirling ash and embers that created small spot fires. Flames crept within yards of some homes before firefighters doused them.

On one road, people on bicycles and skateboards stopped to watch as a plane dumped water on flames a half-mile away. At least two high schools and three elementary schools were evacuated.

Cameron Stout, filling his tank at a gas station, got a text from his wife shortly after noon saying that she was packing up and leaving with the family's pictures, laptops and other valuables. Their next-door neighbor's home burned in a fire 15 years ago, he said.

"This area's been through this before," he said. "I thought the recent rains would have prevented this from happening. But after a couple days of 100 degrees, it's reversed all that."

Katy Ghasemi, 14, was held for hours in her high school classroom before the school let the children go home. Students studied, ate lunch, did yoga and looked out the windows at the fire.

"There were a lot of flames. Some were right near the front gate," she said.

Chuck Dawson said firefighters saved his home.

"The heat is ferocious as you get close to it. In fact, it probably came within 25 feet of our house," he told KNSD-TV (http://bit.ly/1nKiY94 ). "Luckily, we had about 30 firemen who barricaded it, and it burned all the way around, but we're safe."

Another fire in southern San Diego County destroyed a mobile home before it was extinguished.

Meanwhile, in the Santa Barbara County community of Lompoc, 1,200 homes and businesses were under an evacuation order from a fire that quickly grew to more than 500 acres.

There were downed power lines and heavy brush in the area, said David Sadecki of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Chrissy Cabral, 57, rounded up friends to help her remove 19 head of cattle she keeps at a local ranch after the fire shifted directions. She said firefighters warned her: "Get out now."

"I was probably half a mile away from the side of it, but unfortunately for me ... the winds twisted and blew it back on top of me," she said.

"It was very high flames, very dark," she added.

The group used trailers to move the cows 5 miles away, a repeat of 10 years ago when a fire roared through the area and burned her corral, Cabral said.

A half-dozen other blazes statewide all remained small, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Record high temperatures were predicted throughout much of California for the next two days. San Diego's high of 94 on Tuesday tied a 1979 record.

The combination of high heat, low relative humidity and Southern California's notoriously gusty Santa Ana winds prompted Los Angeles and neighboring cities to activate parking restrictions in certain areas to make sure emergency vehicles could get through if fires erupted in dry brush.

Months of drought have left much of the landscape ready to burn. Downtown Los Angeles has recorded just 6.08 inches of precipitation with little time left in the July 1-June 30 rain year. That's less than half its annual average rainfall.

"Fire season last year never really ended in Southern California," Berlant said. His agency has responded to more than 1,350 fires since Jan. 1, compared with an average of 700 by this time of year.

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