Fire blackens thousands of acres on Camp Pendleton

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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Two fires erupted on the outskirts of Camp Pendleton Wednesday amid dry, blisteringly hot conditions — one blackening thousands of acres on the eastern side of the base and another charring more than two dozen acres along Interstate 5 and forcing a full closure of the freeway for several hours.

The first of the two blazes began spreading about 9:45 a.m. at Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook then spread onto Camp Pendleton land, authorities said. A subsequent wind shift led to structure being threatened in Fallbrook.

Smokey Moonrise

The moon rising through the San Marcos fire smoke

Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook lost power, and will be closed Thursday.

As the flames quickly spread, authorities evacuated the station along with military housing in the De Luz area, and Mary Fay Pendleton Elementary School and De Luz Child Development Center.

Those in the 14 area near the airfield were ordered this afternoon to evacuate to the Camp Margarita area parade deck.

The O’Neill Heights housing area was also evacuated, but residents were allowed to return home tonight, according to base officials.

As of about 8:15 p.m., no homes had been damaged.

About 890 evacuees sought shelter at the North County military installation’s Paige Fieldhouse, and children evacuated from the De Luz Child Development Center were relocated to the Fisher Child Care Center.

Base officials said the Country Store on Mainside would remain open until midnight to serve those affected by the fires.

The second blaze broke out about 10 a.m. on the eastern side of Interstate 5, near Las Pulgas Road, possibly due to a fire that engulfed and gutted a box truck, according to the California Highway Patrol. Within 90 minutes, it had jumped to the western shoulder, necessitating a temporary closure of both sides of the freeway in the area.

By early evening, the eastern blaze, dubbed the Tomahawk Fire, had grown to about 6,000 acres, while other one had burned roughly 30 acres, Cal Fire and base officials reported. Military and civilian crews from several area agencies battled the flames on the ground and aboard firefighting aircraft.