Southern California firefighters find badly burned body

SAN DIEGO -- Firefighters working on Southern California wildfires have found a badly burned body in a transient camp.

The city of Carlsbad said the body was found Thursday while firefighters were checking hotspots on a fire that began a day earlier. The city says it had no information about person who died.

It appears to be the first fatality in fires throughout the San Diego region that have destroyed eight homes, an 18-unit apartment complex and two businesses.

The body was found shortly before all evacuation orders were lifted in Carlsbad, a city of 110,000 people 30 miles north of San Diego.

On Thursday, firefighters battled nine major wildfires burning out of control in and around San Diego County on Thursday.

High temperatures and strong winds fed the fires, and steep terrain made it difficult to contain them.

A fire in the city of San Marcos was a top priority. On Thursday, 13,000 more homes and businesses got orders to evacuate, bringing the total to 33,000.

Wind gusts as high as 45 miles per hour pushed the fire up steep hills and into an affluent section of the city. The fire burned so hot in places, it pulled in a rush of cooler air. The circulation created tornadoes of fire and at one point the fire was moving in two different directions.

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Firefighters in California were battling nine major wildfires in and around San Diego County
CBS News

"We have winds picking up, changing directions, so we always got to be on our feet," said firefighter Nick Najera.

Wave after wave of helicopters and planes dropped water and flame retardant. Commanders allowed operations Wednesday night in hopes it would help them get ahead of the fire. It didn't.

In Carlsbad on Thursday Sophie and Bob Payne got a look at what was left of their home. There was little for them to salvage.

"It's gone," Sophie Payne said. "We only left with the clothes on our back. It is a total disaster. Is it a nightmare here or what? Pinch me or something. I keep looking out there and everything is singed and everything's gone.

The San Diego County sheriff said arson would be among the many possibilities investigators would look at in trying to determine what caused the nine fires to break out during a two-day heat wave.

Sheriff Bill Gore said Thursday that it could take months to find the causes of the blazes concentrated in the northwestern section of the county, from the coast to areas 10 to 15 miles inland.

Gore says investigators were not ruling anything out. He noted that sparks from vehicles could easily ignite brush in such hot, dry and windy conditions.

The fires have caused more than $22 million in damage so far.

Calmer winds Thursday morning in San Diego County allowed firefighters to make gains against flames that burned homes and drove tens of thousands from their homes. But the fire in San Marcos suddenly roared Thursday afternoon burning close to homes, triggering the thousands of new evacuation orders and keeping the situation tenuous.

Emergency officials said a significant number of firefighting aircraft had become available, including four air tankers and 22 military helicopters.

Ten of the military helicopters were being used to battle a blaze on the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton, and 12 for the blaze at San Marcos, where a California State University campus with nearly 10,000 students in the middle of final exams was shut down at least through Thursday. Graduation ceremonies were canceled.

Fires began erupting Tuesday amid high heat, extremely low humidity and gusty Santa Ana winds. By Wednesday, nine fires were burning.

Firefighters contended with temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit as they tried to contain flames fueled by brush and trees left brittle by drought.

Extremely high temperatures were again expected Friday, but winds were expected to be light to moderate, with localized gusts. Forecasters predicted a return of the normal sea breeze on the western edge of the county later in the day.

Many schools across the county were closed Thursday. Officials expected some wouldn't reopen until next week.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for San Diego County, which would free up special resources and funding for the firefight, and state fire officials were creating a central command center for the blazes.

Drought conditions have made fire danger extremely high throughout much of California. Officials have encouraged residents in fire-prone areas to prepare evacuation plans and clear brush from near their homes.

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