Firefighters Push Forward in SoCal as Temperatures, Winds Drop

Officials said they'd identified the cause of one of the blazes.

ByABC News
May 16, 2014, 2:19 AM

May 16, 2014 — -- Plumes of black smoke filled the sky today as three separate fires at Camp Pendleton, the West Coast's largest marine training base, continued to burn, scorching more than 14,000 acres.

"When you have this type of fire behavior that is extremely dry ... it can burn rapidly," said Capt. Fernando Herrera of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "It makes it really hard for us to catch up to the fire. ... [The fire] could go from a small spot that's a quarter acre to probably 50 to 100 acres within minutes."

Images: Fires sear through Southern California towns.

With temperatures cooling and winds dropping finally, though, firefighters were able to gain a leg up in the raging battle. Still, five fires continued to burn in San Diego, which is under a state of emergency.

So far, investigators know the cause of just one of the fires. The blaze in Rancho Bernardo, California, started from a spark at a construction project.

Three minor injuries were reported as a result of the Bernardo fire but no structures were lost. The fire burned nearly 1,600 acres.

Related: Did somebody intentionally set the California wildfires?

A landscaper caught on camera what might show the beginning of the Carlsbad, California, fire. A small bush was captured on video on fire near a golf course. Flames jumped across a street and then took off.

At one point this week, however, 11 Southern California fires burned at once. One person was killed, more than 19,000 acres were left charred, at least 11 homes were destroyed and more than 23,000 people were forced to evacuate. Six of the fires have now been 100 percent contained.

Three people were arrested for allegedly setting small fires although those blazes were quickly put out.

Firefighters called the conditions in California -- high temperatures, drought, winds and low humidity -- the perfect recipe for disaster.

"The dry brush ... carries that fire so fast," Herrera said. "It's the fuel combined with the weather."

Across the country, the fire season now last two months longer than usual and this year alone, Washington could spend nearly $2 billion on fighting fires.

"If it continues this way, we're gonna have a lot of fires throughout the state of California," Herrera said. "Any fire that occurs has the potential to grow into a large-scale fires that perhaps [will] threaten life and property."

ABC News' Cecilia Vega and Scott Shulman contributed to this story.