Thousands of Irvine residents evacuated due to the Silverado Fire were returning home Wednesday as firefighters worked to contain the blaze, which injured two firefighters and blackened 13,354 acres, and containment has increased from 5% to 25%.
High winds, which handicapped firefighters when it broke out Monday, were much less of a factor on Wednesday.
“The winds we’ve had today were very calm,” said firefighter Edwin Zuniga, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “I haven’t seen a big push. It’s a light breeze, but nothing significant.”
Firefighters are not engaged in any active fire fronts, Zuniga said. “That tells us the fire activity is very minimal.”
And so far, though more than 69,000 buildings were threatened by flames, none were destroyed.
This follows a night of moderate fire behavior as red flag conditions — high winds, low humidity and dry vegetation — ended, according to the agency.
Evacuation orders and warnings for Irvine and Mission Viejo were lifted as well as in many parts of Lake Forest.
The repopulation Wednesday morning of parts of Irvine was a “testament to the hard work of all firefighters on the ground and in the air the have worked hard the past two days to protect life and property,” according to Orange County Fire Authority’s Steve Concialdi, who added that no homes have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the Silverado Fire.
At its height, 70,000 people were under evacuation orders in Irvine and another 9,500 evacuated in Lake Forest, according to the OCFA and Lake Forest officials.
About 1,200 personnel were assigned to fight the fire, Concialdi said. They’re backed up by at least 14 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, according to OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy, who said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection would take command of the Silverado and Blue Ridge fires.
The fire erupted at 6:47 a.m. Monday in the area of Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads in the Santa Ana Mountains.
Late Monday, Southern California Edison told California officials that a lashing wire may have contacted its overhead primary conductor, sparking the fire. SCE sent a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission on Monday night acknowledging it had overhead electrical equipment in the area where the blaze broke out.
Five firefighters have been injured in the Silverado blaze, Fennessy said. Two are in critical condition and the three others have been treated for minor injuries at local hospitals and released, the fire chief said.
Those wishing to donate to the injured firefighters can contribute to the OCPFA Fallen Firefighters Relief Fund at www.ocfirefighters.org/.
Officials were told the next 24 to 48 hours would be critical in their recovery. They are 26 and 31 years old. Both sustained second- and third-degree burns about 12:15 p.m. Monday, one over 65% of his body and the other over half his body, Fennessy said.
Both firefighters were intubated at OC Global Medical Center in Santa Ana, he said.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes warned “looky loos” to stay out of the area because they can clog up roads needed for first responders to quickly respond to emergencies.
The sheriff also said unscrupulous con artists are using the fires to trick residents into thinking they’re donating to a good cause, but Barnes said police and fire agencies will never call for donations, so people should hang up on anyone purporting to represent police and fire seeking donations.
Evacuation orders have been issued for the Jackson Ranch and Williams Canyon area, the OCFA said. Silverado and Trabuco Canyons along Live Oak Canyon were under evacuation warnings, a spokesman for the agency said.
The OCFA also announced an evacuation warning Tuesday morning for Mission Viejo in the areas of El Toro Road to the north, Marguerite Parkway to the west, Upper Oso Reservoir to the east, and Los Alisos Boulevard to the south. With 554 homes in Mission Viejo under an evacuation warning, the city has opened up the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center as a shelter, officials said.
Later Tuesday, a mandatory evacuation order was issued for residents of Modjeska Canyon.
Temporary evacuation points in the county were at the Brea Community Center, 695 Madison Way; Santiago Canyon College, 8045 E. Chapman Ave.; Woodbridge High School, 2 Meadowbrook, Irvine; Norman P. Murray Community Center, 24932 Veterans Way, Mission Viejo; El Toro High School, 25255 Toledo Way, Lake Forest, and Thomas Lasorda Jr. Field House, 4701 Casa Loma, Yorba Linda.
The Brea Community Center, El Toro High School and Lasorda Field House were open around the clock while the others were open until 9 p.m.
The Santa Ana Zoo was sheltering about 150 animals from the Orange County Zoo in Irvine Regional Park that were moved out because of both the Silverado and Blue Ridge wildfires.
Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said the city opened eight facilities to shelter evacuated residents and several quickly filled up.
Irvine Police Department Chief Mike Hamel said city officials were working with the American Red Cross to provide overnight shelter for residents with no place to go. The city’s animal shelter was open to house pets.
According to the city of Irvine, evacuation centers were established at:
— University High School: 4771 Campus Drive;
— Woodbridge High School: 2 Meadowbrook;
— Las Lomas Community Center: 10 Federation Way;
— Turtle Rock Community Center: 1 Sunnyhill;
— University Community Center: 1 Beech Tree Lane;
— Quail Hill Community Center: 35 Shady Canyon Drive;
— Los Olivos Community Center: 101 Alfonso;
— Harvard Community Center: 14701 Harvard;
— Rancho Senior Center: 3 Ethel Coplen Way.
All schools in the Irvine Unified School District were closed Wednesday.
Tustin Unified schools operated on a normal schedule, except for special education classes, which were conducted online, the district said.
Road closures as of Tuesday included the 133 Toll road northbound between the Santa Ana (5) Freeway and 241 Toll Road, and southbound between the 241 and the Santa Ana Freeway. The 241 Toll Road is closed northbound from Oso Parkway to the Riverside (91) Freeway and southbound between the 91 and Lake Forest Drive.
The 261 Toll Road was closed northbound between Irvine Boulevard and the 241 and Santiago Canyon Road and southbound between the 241 and Santiago Canyon Road and Irvine Boulevard.
The Orange County Health Care Agency urged residents in affected areas to stay indoors, limit outdoor activity, keep windows and doors closed and run air conditioners to filter the air.
Full containment isn’t expected until Nov. 10.
A map of areas under evacuation orders or warnings is available at ocsheriff.gov/commands-divisions/field-operations-investigations-command/emergency-management/resources-during.
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