San Marcos fire damage at $5.7M, likely to rise

SAN MARCOS, Calif. - More than 600 firefighters Monday pressed on against a nearly 2,000-acre wildfire that was 89 percent contained after having leveled more than three dozen structures in the San Marcos area, authorities said.

The Cocos Fire broke out near Cocos Drive on late Wednesday afternoon amid gusty winds, triple-digit heat and extremely dry ground cover, according to Cal Fire, which said the blaze was 89 percent contained as of this morning.

In addition to the 639 fire personnel assigned to the incident, authorities were using 55 fire engines, 17 fire crews, two helicopters, 16 water tenders and six bulldozers, mostly to put out smoldering areas early today.

The cause of the Cocos Fire was under investigation.

An evacuation order for all San Marcos-area residents was lifted Sunday, though those who returned home were asked to use caution because of all the continuing firefighting activity in the area.

Among the structures destroyed in the Cocos Fire were 25 structures at the Harmony Grove Spiritual Association, a century-old church retreat, according to fire and county officials.

The fire's cost to date was more than $5.7 million, authorities said.

No injuries have been reported in connection with the fire, according to Cal Fire.

Firefighters recover some items from Harmony Grove home

The Harmony Grove Spiritual Retreat has been around for 118 years, but the Cocos Fire effortlessly wiped out more than two dozen homes there.
Some firefighters were not ready to leave even after the fire was out.
"This is one of the worst parts," Glendale firefighter Carlos Guerrero said as he looked at what was once a home.

At first glance it looked like Sylvia Williams had lost everything. Her lot was covered in rubble and ash.

Firefighters seemed heartbroken Williams' home was one of the ones they couldn't protect.

"What would we find that's close to you that would be of sentimental value?" he asked.

"My ginger jars are important to me," Williams said. "If you can pull something out of that rubble, bless you."

She knew the flat screen TV her daughter gave her for her 80th birthday was gone, but she'd been collecting ginger jars since she was thirty, and she wanted those more than anything.

They got on their hands and knees and sifted through the rubble to find something… anything… she could hold onto.

"Whatever we can do to help little glimmer of hope or glimmer of her past that she can hang onto to help her through this grieving process, it's something that means a lot to us," Guerrero said. "That's why we're here on our hands and knees."

She pointed them to an area where her dresser used to be to search for jewelry. They pulled out piece after piece. Most were tarnished, but all had a story she was eager to share with the firemen.

"That's one of my mirrored dressing sets. There's ..." she took a few seconds because she was visibly moved. "... there's quite a bit down here."
She did walk away with some of those ginger jars. She said memories matters, and those firefighters who weren't ready to leave gave her a new one.

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