Camp Pendleton Families Return Home After Massive Wildfires

Firefighters with the Camp Pendleton Fire Department combat a fire in the Santa Margarita/De Luz Housing area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, July 6, 2018. (Dylan Chagnon/Marine Corps)
Firefighters with the Camp Pendleton Fire Department combat a fire in the Santa Margarita/De Luz Housing area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, July 6, 2018. (Dylan Chagnon/Marine Corps)

Hundreds of California-based military families are back in their homes after three wildfires erupted on their base late last week, leaving nearly 2,000 acres scorched in their wake.

Evacuation orders for about 750 Camp Pendleton residents were lifted this weekend following what officials warned were "extreme fire-danger conditions."

The first of the three fires broke out on base Friday morning, eventually prompting the order to clear families out of Camp Pendleton's De Luz and O'Neill Heights housing areas.

The largest of the three fires burned about 1,200 acres, according to a Marine Corps press release.

Members of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, based out of nearby Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, supported the firefighting efforts. The Marines and sailors worked alongside personnel from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; U.S. Forestry Service; and Orange County and San Marcos fire departments.

"Without this type of support, we can't set up strategic plans to fight fast moving fires," Chief Carlos Camarena, Camp Pendleton Fire Department's division chief, said in the release. "Here at Camp Pendleton, we depend on this mutual aid quite frequently -- particularly when we have multiple fires and start depleting our own resources."

Aside from the De Luz and O'Neill Heights family housing areas, other facilities evacuated included a child care center, a wounded warrior regiment, Marine barracks, a recreational park and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service building.

By Saturday, the first fire was 70 percent contained and the largest one 30 percent contained.

The base is still at an orange, or very high, risk for fires. Military personnel are instructed to limit -- and in some areas completely avoid -- pyrotechnics, demolitions and other heat- or flame-producing devices, including blanks and smoke grenades.

Smoking is also off-limits, unless Marines or sailors are in cleared areas.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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