Live Updates: California Wildfires

The ruins of a home smoulder in the night after it was destroyed in the Poinsettia fire, one of nine wildfires fueled by wind and record temperatures that erupted in San Diego County throughout the day, on May 14, 2014 in Carlsbad, California.

Fueled by record heat, high winds and drought conditions, at least nine wildfires are burning in California, destroying several homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents.
Mashable will update this story throughout the day with the latest news...

Live map of the wildfires

Live video stream

View of smoke from the International Space Station 


5:50 p.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photo which shows smoke plumes and a broad area of smoke off the coast of California and Mexico.

New evacuations ordered for San Marcos blaze

5:46 p.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

Officials fear the fire may move toward more heavily populated areas in Escondido, California, as well as Del Dios and Mt. Israel, which has prompted new mandatory evacuations.

San Marcos fire claims at least one home

4:54 pm ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

The NBC 7 live feed showed a large home, which anchors described as a "mansion," completely ablaze due to the flareup in the San Marcos, California fire.

San Marcos fire still just 5% contained

4:49 p.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

A brush fire roars up a hillside filling the air with smoke and embers Thursday, May 15, 2014, in San Marcos, Calif.Gusty winds failed to return Thursday morning in San Diego County wildfire areas and authorities said it was a window of opportunity to make further gains against flames that burned homes and drove tens of thousands from their homes. (AP Photo)

The Cocos Fire in San Marcos, California has burned 1,000 acres, and is just 5% contained, according to a CalFire division chief who spoke at a news conference in San Diego. Fire activity in that fire is "fuel and topography driven," he said. "It's creating its own weather."

The fire is in between areas where onshore winds are blowing from the Pacific Ocean to the west, and offshore Santa Ana winds to the east. This is making the fire unpredictable and difficult to control, officials said.

Offshore, Santa Ana winds fueled heat and fires

4:31 p.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

Two firefighters discuss a strategy change while fighting a wildfire from the backyard of a home Thursday, May 15, 2014, in San Marcos, Calif. Gusty winds failed to return Thursday in San Diego County wildfire areas and authorities said it was a window of opportunity to make further gains against flames that have charred thousands of acres and burned homes. (AP Photo)

At a news conference, Dianna Jacob of the County Board of Supervisors said almost 10,000 acres have been "scorched," including several homes and an 18-unit apartment complex. 

She said the winds, known as Santa Ana winds, that have helped these fires thrive are atypical for May. These winds blow offshore, drying the atmosphere out as the air sinks coming off of the mountains in eastern parts of San Diego and Los Angeles counties.

“We have never seen Santa Ana winds like we’ve seen the last two days in May,” Jacob said.

Cocos Fire in San Marcos creating its own weather, fire official says

4:19 a.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

Some homes were damaged by the Cocos Fire but firefighters won't know the extent of the damage until the immediate danger has passed, Cal Fire spokesman Mike Moeller told NBC 7 San Diego. Moeller said the winds are shifting as the "plume dominated" fire pulls in air from surrounding areas.

“These firefighters are doing a very aggressive attack to try to save as many homes as possible,” 
Moeller said. He said 22 military helicopters are fighting the fire along with other aircraft.

Firefighters have been on duty for as many as 36 hours, he said, with crews finally able to rotate off as backup engine companies arrive. “We need to take care of their well-being,” he said.

Helicopters attacking Cocos Fire in San Marcos

4:01 p.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

Travis Lowell takes a picture as smoke from wildfires rise, 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)

Live video from NBC 7 San Diego shows a massive assault of two to three helicopters per minute attacking the Cocos Fire in San Marcos. Crews are trying to stop flames before they reach a housing development with dozens of homes. The helicopters are from multiple agencies, including the military, sheriff's department and others and include an S-64 Skycrane copter.

With heat and shifting winds, fire behavior unpredictable

3:52 p.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

The heat, shifting winds and bone dry conditions are causing the wildfire in San Marcos, California to flare up quickly and move in a different direction. It is now threatening more homes than it was earlier in the day.

The San Marcos fire is flaring up again

3:46 p.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

Local media reports as well as pictures from the scene show that the Cocos Fire in San Marcos, California is intensifying and is now firefighters' top priority. The fire is threatening hundreds of homes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

According to NBC 7 San Diego, evacuation orders are in effect for Questhaven, Harmony Grove, Elfin Forest, Coronado Hills, San Elijo Hills, Cal State San Marcos and Discovery Hills.

New mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for Moree Road and Calle De Soto.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in the vicinity of the fire were hovering near 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Military aircraft now helping firefighters in San Diego

2:58 p.m. ET / May 15, 2015

What Carlsbad woke up to this morning 

2:14 p.m. ET / May 15, 2015 / Amanda Wills

More than 400 acres burned in Carlsbad overnight. Though the fire is now 60% contained, the damage is overwhelming. So far, the estimated damage is $22.5 million and counting. Workers are still trying to restore power to the region.

California stands out as a global hot spot

12:52 p.m. / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

This map of modeled global surface temperature departures from average shows that California, and indeed the entire West Coast of the U.S., are much warmer than normal on Thursday. It stands out as one of the hottest areas of the Northern Hemisphere, although not as unusually warm as parts of Russia. 

Temperature departures from average as projected by the GFS computer model for May 15, 2014. Credit:

Today is the hottest day of the heat wave in the San Diego area

12:34 p.m. / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

The National Weather Service forecast office in San Diego issued a forecast discussion on Thursday morning (Pacific Time) saying that today will be the hottest day of the week, although the winds will be lighter than they were on Wednesday, when the wildfires first ignited and spread quickly.

Here is what the NWS said. Note that the ALL-CAPS format is from the original discussion:


California has had driest start to the year on record

12:07 p.m. ET / March 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

A wildfire burns along the hillside on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, in San Marcos, Calif. Flames engulfed suburban homes and shot up along canyon ridges in one of the worst of several blazes that broke out Wednesday in Southern California during a second day of a sweltering heat wave, taxing fire crews who fear the scattered fires mark only the beginning of a long wildfire season. (AP Photo)

Jake Crouch of the National Climatic Data Center told Mashable that the extreme heat is both aggravated by, and in turn worsens, the drought in a feedback loop. Since the soils are dry, more of the sun's energy goes into heating, rather than evaporating moisture.This has helped make this heat wave so significant. It has also raised the wildfire risks.

California has had its driest start to the year on record, which follows its driest calendar year. There is virtually no prospect of significant, drought-busting rain in southern California until the October/November timeframe, scientists said.

Here is what the California drought looks like:

U.S. Drought Monitor released on March 15, 2014. Extreme drought conditions are affected southern California, with exceptional drought in south central parts of the state. 

Wildfires seen from space

11:31 a.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a high-resolution satellite image of the California fires and their smoke plumes. 

California Wildfires seen from the Suomi-NPP satellite's VIIRS instrument. Fires are also occurring along Mexico's Baja Peninsula. Credit: NOAA/NASA.

Fires are rare for May, and linked to intense drought

11:20 a.m. ET / May 15, 2014

A house stands on a hillside almost totally charred by a wildfire May 14, 2014 in San Marcos, California. About 500 acres have burned in the San Marcos blaze, fueled by record heat, high winds and dry conditions. At least four other fires advanced in nearby communities. (Photo by Bill Wechter/Getty Images)

According to NBC News, Carlsbad Fire Chief Michael Davis said the fire event is unprecedented in his career, and the fires are being treated as suspicious until their cause is found. 

San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar said the unusual May heat and intense drought is a bad sign for the rest of the wildfire season. State fire officials have expressed similar thoughts.

"It is pretty amazing to see these in May," Mainar said, according to NBC and AP reports."We certainly have seen climate change and the impact of climate change. My understanding from Cal Fire is that we've seen twice the number of wildfire starts in the state of California as we typically see this time of year."

The California drought, which is the worst to affect the state in decades if not longer, worsened in the past week, according to new drought data the federal government released on Thursday morning. The entire state is now in moderate drought or worse, with about 25% of the state classified as being in “exceptional drought,” which is the worst category in the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Wildfires continue to burn

10:44 a.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

At least three homes were destroyed in San Marcos, California, near the Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad, California, which caused officials to evacuate California State University at San Marcos. 

According to NBC San Diego, the university decided to cancel its commencement ceremonies on Friday and Saturday due to safety concerns.

According to Cal Fire, the Cocos Fire has burned 700 acres and was 0% contained as of Thursday morning. The fire is moving south, the agency said.

The Highway Fire in the Deer Springs region has burned 600 acres and was 5% contained, Cal Fire reported.

The Tomahawk Fire near the Camp Pendleton Marine Base has burned 6,000 acres, as of Wednesday evening, Cal Fire reported. The fire was about 20% contained at that time. 

Fires were also burning near Los Angeles, including one in Anaheim and another in Long Beach.

Another day of extreme fire in California

10:40 a.m. ET / May 15, 2014 / Andrew Freedman

Residents photograph the burning ruins of their home that was destroyed in the Poinsettia fire, one of nine wildfires fueled by wind and record temperatures that erupted in San Diego County throughout the day, on May 14, 2014 in Carlsbad, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Ominously, Thursday is predicted to be even hotter than Wednesday was, with all-time May high temperature records within reach in Los Angeles and San Diego. 

On Wednesday, Oxnard and Camarillo, California, set all-time high temperature records with highs of 102 degrees Fahrenheit at both locations.

These were the earliest 100-degree days on record in these locations by 28 days. May is typically a much cooler month, with daytime highs in the mid-to-upper 70s.

The National Weather Service in Los Angeles warned Thursday morning of continued record heat and high fire danger:

“Thursday will likely bring more record heat to the warmest coastal/valley locations with highs climbing into the mid 90s to 103 degrees. The combination of hot temperatures, gusty Santa Ana winds and widespread single-digit humidity will bring an extended period of dangerous fire weather conditions to much of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

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