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Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad damages or destroys more than 2 dozen residences

Sabrina Fein

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CARLSBAD (CNS) - A 400-acre wind-driven brush fire that damaged or destroyed about 30 Carlsbad residences and commercial buildings, downed power lines and forced thousands of evacuations was about 60 percent contained today.

The so-called Poinsettia Fire broke out for unknown reasons shortly after 10:30 a.m. Wednesday near Poinsettia Lane and Alicante Road, just east of El Camino Real.

Winds quickly pushed the flames about 400 acres and west toward neighborhoods and some high-tech businesses.

Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall, in a morning news conference, asked people to keep roads as clear as possible for emergency personnel.

He also thanked first responders, saying "although there was major structural damage done here in Carlsbad, we literally saved hundreds of homes."

Carlsbad Fire Chief Michael Davis said an 18-unit apartment complex and four single-family homes were destroyed and six other homes were damaged Wednesday, as were at least two businesses, two vehicles and another structure not specifically identified..

The monetary losses thus far have been estimated at $22.5 million, authorities said.

Neighborhoods along Aviara Parkway and Black Rail Road sustained most of the damage, according to Cal Fire. No injuries were reported.

Davis said 300 firefighters would be on the line today, up from 150 on Wednesday, and 50 Carlsbad police officers were expected to be assigned to the incident to protect evacuated homes from potential looting and to enforce road closures.

Authorities initially issued 15,000 evacuation notices to residents west of El Fuerte Road, south of Palomar Airport Road and north of Aviara Parkway. Among sites evacuated were Aviara Oaks elementary and middle schools, and Poinsettia Elementary, according to Carlsbad Unified School District officials, who said students were not in danger.

The evacuation order was later lifted for those east of El Camino Real, south of Alga Road, on Aviara Parkway from Poinsettia to Ambrosia lanes, in areas south of Aviara Parkway, and on Black Rail and Nightshade roads, Tohee Lane, Cormorant Drive and Baccharis Avenue.

All hotels near the airport on Palomar Airport Road are also open, according to city officials.

Temporary shelters for the displaced were set up at Calavera Hills Community Center, 2997 Glasgow Drive, and at La Costa Canyon High School, 1 Maverick Way. Pets were only allowed at La Costa Canyon High.

About 100 of the evacuees stayed at the two shelters overnight, according to county officials.

City officials said both shelters were fully stocked and need neither donations nor additional volunteers.

"We've had many devastating events similar to this and we've had tragic events in this community and there's one thing I know to be true about this community, (it) is that it always comes together and folks are always here to help each other out," Davis said.

The fire was close to McClellan-Palomar Airport, but flight operations were not significantly affected Wednesday, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Aircraft were being directed around the smoke, he said.

Today, the airport was open but with FAA-imposed temporary flight restrictions with regards to how low aircraft could fly, according to the county.

City Hall, Faraday Center, Carlsbad Senior Center, Cole Library and the Library Learning Center remained open today. However, Alga Norte, Harding and Stagecoach community centers, Monroe Street Pool and the Dove Library were closed.

Fire-related road closures that remained in effect early today included El Camino Real from Alga to Palomar Airport Road; Poinsettia Lane from Black Rail Road to El Camino Real; Palomar Oaks Way; and Cassia Road.

The previously closed Camino Vida Robles from Palomar Airport Road to El Camino Real, along with Aviara Parkway from Ambrosia Lane to El Camino Real, were reopened this morning, city officials said.

Trash pickup service was also expected to resume today, though regularly scheduled pickup times will be delayed one day this week, officials said, adding that some areas may still be without service if inaccessible because of the fire.

The blaze came amid a heat wave that was pushing temperatures well into the 90s along the coast. Winds, however, were not as strong as on Tuesday, when a wildfire charred nearly 1,600 acres between 4S Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe.

The Carlsbad Police Department established a "hotline" for tips about the Poinsettia Fire. Anyone with information about the possible origin of the blaze was asked to call (760) 602-7599.

Citing anonymous sources, San Diego 6 news partner 10News reported that investigators consider all but one of the wildfires that have ravaged San Diego County this week suspicious. Sheriff Bill Gore has told reporters that all possibilities, including arson, are being considered.

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