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First Arson Arrests, 'Unprecedented' San Diego Fires

Southern California burns in 'unprecedented' fires some scientists blame on climate change
Southern California burns in 'unprecedented' fires some scientists blame on climate change
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The first persons have been charged with lighting San Diego's unprecedented wildfires that have burned over 10,000 acres, caused at least one death, and forced over 125,000 people to evacuate, some of whom lost their homes to blazes.

Two youth were arrested Thursday evening after, according to police, they started at least two brush fires in San Diego's Escondido area.

At least nine larger fires rage across the county. The blaze continues to threaten communities with little containment three days after nine wildfires broke out in a single day in San Diego County

Police arrested 19-year-old Isaiah Silva of Escondido and a 17-year-old juvenile last night on suspicion of attempted arson. A witness claimed to have unsuccessfully tried to chase the young men, who were on bicycles, NBC San Diego reports.

Officials are continuing to investigate arson. Earlier reports indicated that eight of nine of the San Diego fires were deliberately lit.

Evacuations continued Friday in areas such as San Marcos, where thousands of people were told to leave their homes Thursday.

“That’s the number one priority, is to save life and then to save property,” San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said at a news conference on Thursday, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “We are not out of the woods yet.”

Some evacuation orders in other areas have been lifted as firefighters gain control, aided by easing weather conditions. But some residents are returning to find burned-out shells of their homes.

The first death with a potential connection to the fires was reported by KPBS Thursday, after firefighters found a badly burned body in a transient camp in Carlsbad, where the 400-acre Poinsettia fire destroyed 18 apartments and destroyed or badly damaged eight houses.

San Marcos was among the worst hit areas, with only five percent of its 800-acre fire under control.

"Nearly 16,000 new evacuation orders were issued in San Marcos and nearby Escondido Thursday," CBS News reports. "Over the last four days, officials have told 125,000 people to leave their homes. More than 2,500 firefighters are working across San Diego County aided by water-dropping aircraft."

Sheriff Bill Gore told reporters that many notices were distributed as a “reminder to everybody just how volatile this can be.”

Hundreds of people are in shelters, and residents trying to go about their lives are forced to navigate around the fires, that caused many roads and highways to close.

Three large and still mostly uncontained fires have now burned more than 17,000 acres in the area as of Friday morning (local time), according to member station KPCC's Fire Tracker. Another blaze, the Bernardo fire, is 75 percent contained after burning more than 1,500 acres, officials say.

The 6,000-acre Tomahawk fire "has grown past the containment line and is approaching the city of Fallbrook," KPBS reported Thursday.

From San Diego, Tom Fudge of KPBS said, "San Diego old-timers say they've never seen such hot, dry winds in May. But those winds have been blowing for three days, and so far, 25 homes have been lost.

Cal Fire commander Tom Porter points out California's drought has left a very dry landscape — 'to the point where we have dead vegetation and fuels that are very volatile.'

A red flag warning, which means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly, are in effect in Hanford, Oxnard and San Diego, according to the National Weather Service.

Yesterday's winds re-ignited smaller fires that had been extinguished.

"This weekend," Fudge said, "Santa Ana winds are expected to diminish and disappear."

Sources: NPR, Russia Today, NBC News, KPBS, National Weather Service

Photo: David McNew / Getty Images

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