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A fire burns at the northen end of Camp Pendleton Photo: Alan Gibby
A fire burns at the northen end of Camp Pendleton Photo: Alan Gibby

By Andrea Papagianis

As of Friday night, three brush fires aboard Camp Pendleton had burned nearly 22,000 acres, base officials confirmed.

The latest fire, the third on base in three days, sent smoke plumes above San Clemente Friday afternoon.

As of 8:56 p.m. the fire had burned 800 acres in the base’s northern Talega area, according to a Marine Corps press release. The fire, dubbed the Talega Fire, was 25 percent contained at the time of the release. Authorities have now changed the fire’s name to the San Mateo Fire (or Combat Fire).

The San Mateo Fire was reported at 11:24 a.m. Friday, becoming the third ongoing blaze at the base.

Two other fires on base have scorched more than 21,000 acres. The Tomahawk Fire, which started Wednesday morning near the Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook, on the base’s eastern border, has burned an estimated 6,500 acres and is 65 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

On the opposite end of the base, the Pulgas Fire, located east of Interstate 5 near the Las Pulgas Gate, has spread to 15,000 acres and is 40 percent contained, the release said.

Dark smoke rose above south San Clemente Friday afternoon and the hum of helicopters lingered in the air. A steady stream of aircraft captured water from the Pacific near San Clemente State Beach before heading back toward base to fight the San Mateo flames. Aerial attacks were also aided by planes dropping fire retardant, which left prominent orange lines amid the base’s foliage.

All non-essential base personnel were released from duty at noon due to the fires. Near San Clemente, an evacuation order was issued for personnel in 62 Area, or Camp San Mateo, home of the 5th Marine Corps Regiment. Also, the San Onofre Housing Area and School of Infantry West were ordered to evacuate.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter for evacuees at San Clemente High School. As of 7:15 p.m. Friday, the shelter was closed and by 9 p.m. San Onofre residents were allowed to return home.

Evacuation orders for Camp Las Pulgas, Camp Margarita, Camp Las Flores and 32 Area remain in effect because of the Pulgas fire, according to the Camp Pendleton Scout Facebook page. Both the Las Pulgas and Fallbrook Gates remain closed at this time.

The causes of all three fires remain under investigation.

According to Capt. Steve Concialdi, spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority, no fires have been reported in Orange County.

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