The unseasonably early wildfires flared up again in Southern California Thursday. The flames have driven tens of thousands of people from their homes and caused more than $20 million in damage.
Nine fires in the San Diego region have scorched 15 square miles and burned at least eight homes, an apartment complex and two businesses. The fires may also have caused at least one fatality.
A flare-up Thursday prompted 18,400 new evacuation notices in the San Diego suburb of San Marcos.
"A very dangerous fire season, the worst fire season that we have seen in a long, long time," Dianne Jacob, president of the San Diego Board of Supervisors, said.
Authorities now say they're treating the fires as a crime scene and are searching for a cause. Nine fires in three days in a small area has many wondering about arson.
"It would just be pure speculation to say whether they were set or by a car or an individual. We just don't know yet. But we are actively investigating the start of those fires," San Diego City Police Sheriff Bill Gore said.
The fires began Tuesday, fueled by high winds, extreme heat and low humidity. No one knows yet just how many homes have been damaged.
"I saw the smoke coming above our condo, our unit, and it turned suddenly super black, so I headed that way and it was a wall of fire," one evacuee said.
The flames came within feet of California State University in San Marcos. School officials evacuated the campus and called off graduation.
So far, authorities have issued 125,000 evacuation notices.
Meanwhile, there's hope that better weather Thursday will help firefighters begin to contain the fires. But it could take months for investigators to find out just what caused this disaster.