EXCLUSIVE: New photos confirm Cocos fire started in two location - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

EXCLUSIVE: New photos confirm Cocos fire started in two locations

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First photo of flames off Cocos Dr. First photo of flames off Cocos Dr.
SAN MARCOS, Calif. (CBS 8) -- There is new photographic evidence of the start of the Cocos fire.  A San Marcos photographer took the pictures from his back porch.

They are believed to be some of the earliest photos of the fire and they clearly show the Cocos fire started in two separate locations.

Former news photographer John Melson started taking the pictures as soon as he saw smoke at 3:25 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14.

The photos show smoke above a ridgeline in the Coronado Hills neighborhood.

“I got a step ladder to look over the wall and started documenting the fire,” said Melson from his home on Sonoma Street in San Marcos.

The smoke appears to be rising from the Washingtonia Drive area above.

Scanner traffic obtained by CBS News 8 confirms that 609 Washingtonia Drive is the location where San Marcos firefighters were first dispatched.

Edited Scanner Traffic - Cocos Fire - May 14:

The vegetation that was burning on Washingtonia was behind two homes, a good distance away from the road.

CBS News 8 walked the neighborhood and discovered that the home located at 617 Washingtonia Drive is vacant, and 609 Washingtonia Drive is right next door.  A clump of trees behind the homes is where that first fire started burning.

“We’ve got some large trees that are starting to go up in the canyon.  Copy, large trees going up in the canyon,” the scanner traffic confirms.

Down in San Marcos, Melson continued snapping photos throughout the afternoon.  Eight minutes after he first saw smoke above Washingtonia Drive, he captured the first flame flare-up in a canyon off Cocos Drive, located west of the first fire.

“That fire was significantly lower than the first fire that started 3:25,” said Melson.  “From what I understand these photos I took are some of the very, very early photos of the Washingtonia-Cocos fires.”

Melson’s house looks to the southeast.  At the time the first fire broke out, the wind was blowing to the west, from the direction of the first fire on Washingtonia toward the second fire off Cocos Drive.

The photographer also has a view of Cocos Drive from his home.

“Throughout the whole time I was taking pictures, I didn't see any vehicles driving in that area,” said Melson.

Eventually, Melson started recording video as the Cocos fire spread.

The cause of the fires is still under investigation.  We still don't know if embers from the Washingtonia Drive fire sparked the second fire off Cocos drive, or if both fires could have been set intentionally in two separate locations.

John believes his is images might help answer that question.

“I'm really hopeful these pictures will be able to help solve this mystery,” said Melson.  He has given his photos and video to the San Marcos Fire Department.

The family that lives in the home at 609 Washingtonia Drive declined to comment on what may have started the fire behind their house.
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