Crews battle brush fire in Oceanside: Fire reported on S Coast Highway near Carlsbad Boulevard

Blaze broke out near Buena Vista Lagoon

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - A vegetation fire apparently sparked by a transient's campfire blackened several open acres near Buena Vista Lagoon Wednesday, spreading toward some buildings but causing no structural damage or injuries.

The blaze off the 2100 block of South Coast Highway was reported shortly before 5:30 a.m., according to Pete Lawrence, a battalion chief with the Oceanside Fire Department.

For a time, increasing winds drove the flames toward a nearby developed area, but crews were able to halt them before they could cause any property damage.

"When we got here, we had about half an acre of very heavy fuel, about 30-foot flames; being pushed by south wind towards the structure," he added. "The only impact to the structures was a heavy shower of embers and significant amounts of smoke."

Aided by a water-dropping helicopter from the city of San Diego, firefighters were able to get the roughly two-acre burn area fully contained by 8 a.m., the battalion chief said.

The flames were about 100 feet from the Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center, and center manager Annette Schneider told 10News, "I was scared, shaking. I was frightened, but when I saw firefighters had it under control, I was able to relax a little bit."

The blaze forced the closure of South Coast Highway between Vista Way in Oceanside and the northern city limits of Carlsbad into the late morning.

About two dozen firefighters from both the Oceanside and Carlsbad fire departments fought the flames for about three hours. It was centered in the lagoon, and one might think the water would help, but created an added challenge for crews because of the marsh-like terrain.

"After putting in approximately 1,000 feet of hose, the ground crews ran into marshy conditions the farther out into the lagoon they progressed," Lawrence explained.

The efforts by crews saved the nature center and the wildlife surrounding it, which it stands for.

Schneider had one message for fire crews: "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

Preliminary evidence suggested that a campfire alongside the lagoon ignited the blaze in stands of reeds and brush, according to Lawrence.

"The preliminary cause has been determined to be accidental due to an escaped warming fire," Lawrence said.

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