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article imageThousands evacuated as California wildfires come early and often

By Nathan Salant     May 15, 2014 in Environment
Carlsbad - Tens of thousands of people including a nuclear plant, a college campus and a US military base had to be evacuated Wednesday after numerous early-season wildfires converged near San Diego.
More than 20,000 evacuation notices were issued in the city of Carlsbad as fire burned in residential neighborhoods and more than 20 structures were destroyed.
California usually has a fire season when hillsides dry out after seasonably warm spring and summer months, but fires have started early in 2014 after several years of unusually dry winters.
On Wednesday, the Bernardo fire broke out early in San Diego, followed in quick succession by fires in Carlsbad, at the Camp Pendleton base and Fallbrook, according to Cable News Network (CNN).
No injuries have been reported so far, but evacuations were ordered at the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Pendleton and at the Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad and at Palomar College in San Marcos.
No relief is forecast, at least not in the near term.
"This is only going to get worse" in the summer and fall, CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray said.
But the present seemed bad enough for some residents living near active blazes.
Christina Echols of Oceanside told CNN that she's fearful because her home -- seven miles from the nuclear plant -- is being threatened by three fires.
"I am afraid of the fires right now," she said.
Zeb Navarro said from San Marcos that students and administrators at Palomar College were so nervous, classes were cancelled Wednesday evening even though final exams are approaching.
"Students are scared, and several of them are leaving," Navarro told CNN.
"Everyone is worried and praying that all is safe," he said.
A Carlsbad firefighter lighting backfires to help contain the blazes called the situation "extreme" because of record temperatures in the 90s.
"This is extreme; this has gone from dry conditions to volatile conditions," the firefighter said.
"This isn't something we don't normally see until November or September," he said.
Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall told CNN said he was very concerned for the safety and homes of residents from the different blazes.
"It is all a concern for us," Hall said.
"In everyone of them, there is property and homes involved -- they are all neighbors," he said.
Rich Breeze told CNN that he saw a burning house explode in Carlsbad.
"The fire was just incredible" Breeze said.
"It was beyond anything you've ever seen before," he said.
The fires were helped along by the notoriously fierce Santa Ana winds, which fanned the flames, CNN said.
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