Wildfires temporarily close Legoland California

By | May 19, 2014

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Fueled by unseasonably warm temperatures and the region’s notoriously hot, dry Santa Ana winds, eight wildfires — including several that impacted this affluent seaside city and its premier attraction, Legoland California — were sparked within a few hours of each other across San Diego County last week.

Legoland, 35 miles north of downtown San Diego, evacuated guests and closed its attractions by midday on Wednesday, May 14, as billowing dark plumes from three of the wildfires appeared uncomfortably close — contrasting ominously with the park’s brightly colored environs.

“Legoland California was affected by several power outages… caused by fires nearby,” according to an official park statement. “All rides [were] evacuated to ensure the comfort and safety of park guests.”

The park’s closures included the Sea Life Aquarium. The Legoland Hotel remained open, though a few guests reportedly opted to check out early. Some 23,000 evacuation notices were issued elsewhere in Carlsbad, and the nearby Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base also was evacuated.

Legoland was able to reopen as normally scheduled the following day.

By the weekend, a change in the weather bringing onshore winds and a deepening marine layer helped firefighters get the upper hand on the blazes. Although air quality was poor and noticeably hazy between Interstates 5 and 15 from Los Angeles and San Bernardino south to San Diego, there were no other closures or operating issues reported among Southern California’s major theme parks.

Damage countywide initially was estimated in the tens of millions, with a couple dozen homes and structures lost; more than 23,000 acres were scorched. Although one of the fires was caused by a construction mishap, the ignition source for the others remained under investigation. One person was charged with attempting to fuel a fire in Oceanside, while arson had not been ruled out in other areas.

—Dean Lamanna