Residents in northern and western portions of Escondido were ordered to take refuge from the erratic Cocos Fire on Thursday, as the blaze that's destroying homes in the Coronado Hills community of San Marcos marched eastward also.
Those people living west of West Valley Parkway between Via Rancho Parkway and Highway 78 are being directed to go to either Escondido High School, at 1535 N. Broadway in Escondido, or Mission Hills High School, at 1 Mission Hills Ct. in San Marcos.
The Rancho Santa Fe Fire District posted an alert to Twitter advising residents on Mount Israel and Del Dio Highway to evacuate. The area is south of Olivenhain Reservoir and east of Lake Hodges.
CHP and Caltrans are advising that they are closing Del Dios Highway from Via Rancho Parkway to Rancho Drive just west of Escondido so that nearby evacuees can move out of the area.
Evacuations began around 1:30 p.m. Thursday as the Cocos Fire exploded in growth moving from San Marcos to the east.
Thursday evening, Escondido officials announced that the fire had destroyed one home and two outbuildings on Mount Whitney Drive in the unincorprated area of the county.
Along the 3000-block of Hill Valley Road south of State Route 78, an NBC News Crew watched as firefighters were working structure protection on the ground and a military helicopter dropped water on spot fires that were popping up.
Flames shot into the air near very large, very expensive homes tucked between trees in the area and smoke was getting thicker as winds blow to the east and to the south.
Several miles away, Jim Buchanan owns a home on an acre of land near Country Club Drive and Kauana Loa Drive. He said early Thursday he and his neighbors thought fire crews had the Cocos Fire beat.
Then, when Buchanan went to check on a neighbor’s property, he realized the fire had spread to the bottom of the hill near his home.
“Jeepers! About three hours ago. Boom, boom, boom -- three big black columns of smoke,” Buchanan said.
With hose in hand and bandana hanging around his neck, Buchanan lamented the number of trees on his property.
“I thought I had all summer to prune,” he said. “Who’d have thought? This is May. I mean, doesn’t the fire know the rules?”
He thinks two homes along the street are gone.
Officials said Palomar Medical Center West will shelter in place. Staffers say they are working closely with the county, police and fire officials.
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