SAN MARCOS, Calif. — One of the nine fires burning in San Diego County suddenly flared Thursday afternoon and burned close to homes, triggering thousands of new evacuation orders.
And firefighters working the wildfires found a badly burned body in a transient camp.
The flareup near the city of San Marcos occurred after a half-day lull in winds that firefighters had seized as an opportunity to make progress against flames that have scorched thousands of acres this week.
Ash-laden smoke was so thick that visibility was limited to a few feet at times. On one semi-rural street, five horses wandered nervously in a paddock as firefighters worked to protect nearby homes and barns.
County Sheriff Bill Gore said new evacuation notices were transmitted to 12,952 phone numbers. They were in addition to more than 20,000 evacuation orders issued Wednesday.
State fire Capt. Kendal Bortisser said the fire was running east along hillsides behind California State University at San Marcos.
The fire was being driven by fuel and topography, said division chief Dave Allen of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "It's created its own weather pattern there as it sucks oxygen in," he said at a news conference.
The 1,000-acre blaze was only 5 percent contained. The fire, which broke out Wednesday, forced the evacuation of the California State University campus where nearly 10,000 students were in the middle of final exams. Graduation ceremonies were canceled.
Fires began erupting in the county Tuesday amid high heat, extremely low humidity and gusty Santa Ana winds. By Wednesday, nine fires were burning.
Asked about the possibility of arson, the sheriff said he wouldn't prejudge the investigations. He noted that sparks from vehicles can easily ignite brush in such dry conditions.