ESCONDIDO, Calif. (AP) — With the exception of one neighborhood in the San Diego suburb of San Marcos, all of the evacuation orders have been lifted for areas affected by the wildfires that ripped through the region during the past several days.
San Marcos has slowly returned to normal as more roadblocks were removed. One man who was unloading clothing from his car that he took when he was ordered to evacuate Wednesday night says, "It's such a wonderful blessing to be back."
At least ten fires covering 39 square miles have chewed a destructive path through San Diego County since Tuesday, destroying 121 houses, an 18-unit apartment complex and two businesses. A body was found in a transient camp.
Officials say the first blaze was caused by a spark from construction equipment. But they say it could take months to get to the bottom of the most damaging fires. One man has pleaded not guilty to an arson charge in connection with one of the smaller fires, but authorities don't think he started it -- they think he just added brush to it.
While fire crews guard against a resurgence of the flames, they're also bracing for a long fire season ahead. Already, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to more than 1,500 fires this year, compared with 800 during an average year.
009-w-35-(Ed Donahue, AP correspondent, with Sandy Herman and Francisca Adams with the U.S. Forest Service)--Crews are making progress to fully contain the wildfires burning near San Diego. The AP's Ed Donahue reports. (18 May 2014)
<<CUT *009 (05/18/14)££ 00:35
022-a-06-(Sandy Herman, returning resident, in AP interview)-"help these people"-This resident returning home, Sandy Herman, says she's glad her home is still there, but sad for others who weren't so lucky. (18 May 2014)
<<CUT *022 (05/18/14)££ 00:06 "help these people"
020-a-08-(Jamie Williams, returning resident, in AP interview)-"great. It's wonderful"-This resident, Jamie Williams, says he's glad to be back home, after the fire forced his evacuation. (18 May 2014)
<<CUT *020 (05/18/14)££ 00:08 "great. It's wonderful"
APPHOTO CAGB113: Smoke plumes rise behind the Marine Corps Camp Pendleton entrance Friday, May 16, 2014, in Oceanside, Calif. San Diego County officials said Friday five wildfires have been 100 percent contained. Still, crews were focusing efforts on two large fires — one in the city of San Marcos and two blazes at the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) (16 May 2014)
<<APPHOTO CAGB113 (05/16/14)££