A wind-driven brush fire in Silverado Canyon sparked by a house fire exploded to 7,200 acres Thursday, injuring two firefighters and growing rapidly as mandatory and voluntary evacuations were ordered for residents in a large portion of Orange County.
The two firefighters injured worked for the Cleveland National Forest Service.
“They were treated on scene and transported to a local hospital,” said Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy. “Their exact condition is unknown to me.”
Mandatory evacuations were in effect in the Modjeska, Silverado and Williams Canyon areas, Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills west of El Toro and north of the 241 Toll Road.
Voluntary evacuations were issued for the following areas:
— Lake Forest, from the 241 Toll Road, along Bake Parkway to Musick and north to the border with Irvine and from the 241 Toll Road north to Bake Parkway to Foothill Ranch Community Ranch;
— Borrego Canyon;
— Baker Ranch;
— Portola Hills;
— Live Oak Canyon;
— Trabuco Canyon;
— Rose Canyon;
— Valley Vista Way;
— Meadow Ridge Drive;
–Cowan and Lemon Heights.
Evacuees were strongly encouraged to stay with family or friends or in a hotel, the OCFA said.
“Due to COVID-19, no congregate shelter is offered,” the authority tweeted about 5:20 a.m. A temporary OC Red Cross evacuation point at Santiago Community College at 8405 E. Chapman Ave, Orange, was shut down and a new one was opened at El Modena High School, 3920 E. Spring St., Orange. Residents were asked to remain in their vehicles and wait for assistance.
Officials have also opened another Red Cross evacuation point at El Toro High School at 25255 Toledo Way in Lake Forest.
Fennessy urged residents to be prepared to move when necessary to clear the way for firefighters to battle the blaze.
“Even if you don’t see smoke… If you have a concern the flames are a little bit too close, that’s enough to have your belongings prepared to evacuate,” Fennessy said. “You don’t have to wait for us to call.”
Authorities are also concerned about a number of power poles and lines felled by the gusts in the area that could also delay residents from re-entering their homes.
More than 500 firefighters were battling the blaze, OCFA Capt. Thanh Nguyen said. A helitanker dropped about 90,000 gallons of water on the flames overnight, Fennessy said.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said about 60 deputies have been deployed to assist with evacuations, traffic control and security in evacuated areas. All the department’s deputies are on 12-hour patrols, he said.
“All days off are canceled to bring in all resources,” Barnes said.
Firefighters were investigating reports of multiple structures damaged or destroyed in the blaze, Nguyen said.
“We know a number of houses were damaged, potentially destroyed,” Fennessy said. “We just don’t have the details.”
Winds were blowing north to northeast 25 mph to 35 mph with gusts up to 65 mph and isolated gusts reaching up to 80 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
But the winds died down some by the afternoon, OCFA Capt. Paul Holaday said.
“This morning around 5:30 a.m. to 6 a.m., it was starting to move toward Lake Forest, which prompted the mandatory evacuations for Portola Hills and Foothill Ranch,” Nguyen said.
The blaze is in the same area as the Silverado Fire in October, but there’s still plenty of brush to fuel the flames now, Nguyen said.
“This time, it started in Silverado Canyon on the east side of Santiago Canyon Road and made its way to Santiago Canyon and jumped the road,” Nguyen said. “The wind was pretty aggressive this morning when I was driving through.”
Water-dropping helicopters had to be grounded at 3 a.m., Nguyen said. They were able to resume between 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., he added.
Officials said Orange County Animal Care would be accepting small household pets at the Tustin Facility at 1630 Victory Road.
Orange County Fire Authority personnel responded to the 29400 block of Silverado Canyon Drive at about 10:15 p.m. Wednesday. No injuries were immediately reported.
Ground crews were being assisted in the fight against the Bond Fire by fire helicopters and a helitanker, the OCFA said. More than 240 firefighters were on the scene, the OCFA said. The agency is in unified command with the U.S. Forest Service.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced that the county’s Emergency Operations Center was activated to support the firefighting effort. A public information hotline number was activated — 714-628-7085 — for residents to call for information on resources available for them.
Residents were urged to stay informed of the most current information by monitoring @OCFA_PIO on Twitter. Also, a public safety map with evacuation orders and warnings was available at bit.ly/2Vy231m.
Santiago Canyon Road from Jackson Ranch Road to the Eastern Transportation (241 Toll Road) Corridor was closed.
The 261 toll road and Route 133 were also closed, Barnes said.
The Irvine Police Department alerted residents that it is aware of the Bond Fire burning nearby and, while fire is visible from within the city, it was moving away from Irvine and there was no current threat to residents.
Anaheim officials also tweeted that no immediate threat was seen in that city.
Inland Orange County is under a red flag warning until 10 p.m. Saturday for extreme fire danger due to high winds and low relative humidity.
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