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Public Safety

San Diego County To Get Federal Aid To Fight Fires

Fires glow at night in San Marcos, May 14, 2014.
Fires glow at night in San Marcos, May 14, 2014.

12 Additional Firefighting Helicopters Arriving Thursday

San Diego County Fires

Tomahawk: 6,000 acres

Bernardo: 1,548 acres

Highway: 600 acres

Cocos: 450 acres

Poinsettia: 400 acres

River: 50 acres

Freeway: 30 acres

Lakeside: 17 acres

Escondido: 1 acre

Federal aid will be made available to authorities fighting the Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad after San Diego County declared a local emergency, the state Office of Emergency Services announced Wednesday evening.

A fire management assistance grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the majority of firefighting costs for responding local, state and tribal agencies at the blaze, according to the state OES.

"We welcome FEMA's approval of Governor (Jerry) Brown's request for assistance," state OES Director Mark Ghilarducci said. "Fires like the Poinsettia fire can put a strain on resources, particularly at a time when dry conditions due to the drought, above normal temperatures and winds have increased the wildfire threat significantly."

Wind-driven wildfires tore through sections of Bonsall, Camp Pendleton, Carlsbad, Lakeside, Oceanside, San Marcos and Scripps Ranch on Wednesday, destroying an unknown number of structures, scorching thousands of acres of rugged terrain and prompting tens of thousands of people in the area to evacuate.

County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said at a Wednesday night news conference that although nine confirmed fires had burned 9,186 acres in San Diego County this week, "we’re better prepared than we ever have been in the history of this region.”

Seven air tankers and 17 helicopters — including 10 military ones — were fighting the county's fires. An additional 12 helicopters were expected to arrive Thursday. Three more fixed-wing air tankers also were en route and the much-loved, converted DC-10 “supertanker” had arrived.

“The firefighters deserve our high praise," Jacob said. "We’re getting help, but the fight is far from over.”

She said winds were expected to be calm overnight, which would aid the firefighting efforts.

“We’re hoping and praying that is the case,” Jacob said.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said at the evening news briefing that he was “cautiously optimistic” about controlling the fires burning around the county.

Gore said the San Marcos fire was the county’s biggest threat. More than 21,000 homes had been evacuated there.

He said 72 sheriff's deputies would be patrolling evacuated areas in San Marcos and Carlsbad, as well as in neighborhoods affected by the Bernardo fire, which started Tuesday in 4S Ranch and stretched to Rancho Santa Fe. An additional 70 deputies were on standby, he said, along with 72 agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Border Patrol.

“It truly has been a great team effort,” Gore said.

Under the federal aid the county is receiving, agencies can apply for a 75 percent reimbursement of costs related to mobilization, demobilization, travel and labor. Equipment and supply use, administrative activities and other fire-related costs are also eligible for reimbursement.

Responding local, state and tribal agencies are responsible for the remaining 25 percent of their costs.

"Conditions throughout the state are likely to get worse, rather than better, as the fire season continues and the federal assistance provided in this grant is critical in addressing these types of disasters," Ghilarducci with the state OES said.

City News Service contributed to this report.