Cocos Fire sends locals home, crews out

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The Cocos fire continued to spread throughout San Marcos on Thursday. The flames forced more than 21,000 evacuations.  More than 10,000 of those evacuations were from the campus of Cal State San Marcos.  

"It was so close, like I've never been so close to a fire, like everyone was just scared," said Michele Virgilio, a Palm Springs native.  

She describes a frightening and abrupt end to her freshman year at the school.  She and her classmates evacuated Wednesday as the fire raged dangerously close to campus.  

"It was like almost touching our school, that fire," said Virgilio. "The smoke was huge. It was all black and red, you could see how bad it was."

Virgilio drove back to the valley in heavy traffic as others evacuated. Another local, Yuki Hata chose to stay at his off-campus apartment, posting photos of the fire to his Twitter.  

"It's pretty much surrounding the whole mountain and the mountain is dead now and it's pretty scary," said Hata over the phone. 

Scary enough to call for the help of firefighters from all over the state to help contain the flames. Crews from Palm Springs and Cathedral City were called out to help. The Palm Springs engine started its work in Carlsbad, helping to protect buildings threatened by fire, and they're just getting started.

"They worked throughout the night, and they're assigned to a day shift now in the San Marcos area," said Palm Springs fire Chief John Allen.

While the threat's far from our desert, Chief Allen hopes people take these fires as a warning to prepare because things can change very quickly.  

"If these winds pick up and the relative humidity's below 10%, and the heat is high, we have some major fire conditions that we all have to be responsible for and take action," said Chief Allen. 

Graduation for CSUSM was scheduled for this weekend, but is now postponed to May 24 and 25.  

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