Deputies evacuated several homes in San Marcos Wednesday and shut down traffic on westbound State Route 78 as a 2-acre wildfire burned near the highway, threatening homes.
By 1 p.m., San Diego County Sheriff’s Department deputies had evacuated five residences on Green Meadow Way and Plumosa Avenue. Officials set up a command post east of Sycamore Avenue to monitor the situation.
Meanwhile, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers issued a SigAlert and closed down all lanes of westbound SR-78 just east of Sycamore Avenue.
Officials said the blaze began around 12:40 p.m. in brush off the highway a half-mile east of Sycamore Avenue. Quickly, the flames crept up the hillside getting dangerously close to houses.
Many residents scrambled to gather their loved ones, pets and belongings. Neighbors also banded together to help one another.
Joseph Buchanon was one of a group going door-to-door, checking to make sure neighbors were alright.
"A neighbor called my name, saying 'I need your help because I need to get the grandbaby out,'" Buchanon said. "So she's putting her grandbaby in the car. I grab hoses, and I'm hitting the fire from the backside of the fence, and the winds are gusting, kind of blows back in my face."
Sheriff's deputies soon told him to get out because the fire was climbing over the hillside.
Lee Agricola came home from work to save some very precious belongings, including a 1963, mint condition Chevy Impala. His biggest concern, however, was his newborn daughter.
"My daughter was here. She's six months old, so I had to race over here," said Agricola. "My mom was panicking. I had to get her out of the house."
Engines from several fire departments rushed to the scene, including San Marcos, Vista and Carlsbad agencies. CHP officials handled traffic control and road closures so fire crews could tackle the blaze.
As of 1:25 p.m., the CHP had reopened the No. 1 on SR-78 to traffic, but the rest of the lanes remained closed. Due to the closures, traffic was snarled for miles.
By 1:30 p.m., aerial footage of the scene showed firefighters had knocked down the flames. Smoke continued to rise from the scorched terrain. Many firefighters could be seen hosing down hotspots next to homes on the hillside.
By 2 p.m., officials said the fire was contained and under control. Firefighters were able to save all of the homes in the area. Only the wooden backyard fence of one of the properties was damaged by the blaze.
The Vista Fire Department said defensible space between the homes atop the hill and the fire helped, and decreased the potential for damage to the homes.
No injuries were reported.
Officials say most of the time, fires that start in brush near freeways are ignited by a spark from a car or someone tossing a flammable object out a window.
The Vista Fire Department later determined the cause of the fire was a vehicle malfunction resulting in heated material landing in the vegetation along SR-78.
Temperatures were in the high 70s in San Marcos at the time of the wildfire.