Colleges, schools cancel classes as Lilac Fire grows in North County

SAN MARCOS, Calif. - A wind-driven wildfire tore thousands of acres near Fallbrook Thursday, gutting at buildings while threatening hundreds of others, closing roads and forcing evacuations.

Cal State San Marcos has canceled classes for the rest of Thursday and Friday in consideration of employees and students affected by the Lilac Fire in northern San Diego County.

MiraCosta College's Oceanside campus and Community Learning Center were also closed Thursday.

Lilac Fire: Live Blog

All campus sites in the Palomar Community College District will be closed on Friday. All classes and campus events are canceled for all sites and facilities.

The following school districts announced classes will be canceled Friday:

  • Bonsall Unified School District
  • Carlsbad Unified School District
  • Fallbrook Union Elementary School District
  • Fallbrook Union High School District
  • Julian Union Elementary School District
  • Julian Union High School District
  • Mountain Empire Unified School District
  • Oceanside Unified School District
  • San Marcos Unified School District
  • Spencer Valley School District
  • Vista Unified School District
  • Warner Unified School District

Additional school closures:

  • Children's Paradise Schools:
    • Children's Paradise Preschool, 145 N. Melrose Dr. Ste. 100, Vista
    • Children’s Paradise Preschool, 990 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista
    • Children’s Paradise Preschool, 2017-A Mission Ave., Oceanside
    • Children's Paradise, El Norte Parkway, Escondido remains open.
  • Heritage K-8 Charter (charter school)
  • Escondido Charter High School (charter school)
  • Bella Mente Montessori Academy (charter school)
  • Classical Academy and Classical Academy High School (charter schools)
  • Coastal Academy (charter school)
  • Scholarship Prep Charter School Oceanside
  • North County Trade Tech High School (charter school)
  • Epiphany Prep: Escondido Campus (charter school)
  • Guajome Park Academy (charter school)
  • Momentum Learning juvenile court and community schools (operated by the San Diego County Office of Education): Youth Day Center, Breaking Cycles, Innovations Academy of Empowerment, North County Technology Academy

San Diego Unified School District officials alerted families around 5 p.m. that they are monitoring the weather and fire conditions, but hadn't canceled classes for Friday.

"While fires are not impacting our schools at this time, district staff is in close contact with the Office of Emergency Services, San Diego Gas and Electric, and the County Emergency Operations Center. Parents and guardians will continue to get up-to-date information about their schools from principals. We will share any breaking information on our @sdschools twitter page," SDUSD officials stated.

Bonsall Unified successfully evacuated Bonsall Elementary, Sullivan Middle, and Bonsall High schools due to mandatory evacuation notices issued for the Lilac Fire.

As conditions change, each school district will continue to monitor the local emergency situation and make school closure decisions on a day-by-day basis.

The blaze dubbed the Lilac Fire erupted about 11:15 a.m. amid gusty, arid weather just west of Interstate 15 and north of Lilac Road in Pala Mesa.

Within an hour, the burn area had grown to about 50 acres as ground and airborne crews labored to keep the blaze from becoming a disastrously out-of-control conflagration like others raging this week across Southern California, Cal Fire reported.

By 2 p.m., the flames had spread over roughly 500 acres, were threatening an estimated 1,000 homes and had sent a thick pall of brown smoke to the southwest above the North County and out over the ocean, according to the state agency.

As of early afternoon, crews had gained no containment of the fire, which was being pushed by stiff Santa Ana winds "at a dangerous rate of spread," Cal Fire reported.

San Diego County was quick to proclaim a state of local emergency due to the fire. The proclamation, issued about three hours into the firefight, will help make the region eligible for state and federal resources.

Govenor Jerry Brown later declared a state of emergency due to the wildfire.

The cause of the blaze -- which broke out amid a National Weather Service "red flag" wildfire warning slated to expire Sunday night -- was not immediately clear.