The Silverado Canyon fire sends thick smoke into the air Friday as fire crews work to contain the blaze. Photo by John Schreiber.
The Silverado Canyon fire sends thick smoke into the air Friday as fire crews work to contain the blaze. Photo by John Schreiber.

The four-day-old Silverado Fire, which has burned nearly 1,000 acres, was apparently ignited by the sun reflecting off metal sheeting put up by someone trying to keep rodents out of a vegetable garden, a fire official said Monday.

The two-foot high metal sheeting was wrapped around a wood border, and the reflected rays ignited the wood and grass in a backyard in the 30500 block of Silverado Canyon Road about 10:30 a.m. Friday, according to Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi.

Residents should “use wire mesh to keep small rodents out” of gardens, he said.

“Do not ever use a material that reflects like metal sheeting — it becomes like a magnifying glass,” Concialdi said.

Neighbors said they smelled wood burning intermittently, but did not see any smoke and did not report anything to authorities, Concialdi said.

“Once the fire started, it traveled out of the garden and into adjacent grasses and vegetation and ran up a steep hill,” Concialdi said.

The homeowner who put up the rodent barrier called 911 and tried to douse the fire, with help from neighbors, but it spread too rapidly, Concialdi said.

About 1,059 firefighters, with help from five helicopters making water drops, battled the fire, which has blackened an estimated 968 acres. The overall number of firefighters assigned to the blaze may be reduced later today.

Six firefighters treated for heat-related injuries were expected to be OK, Concialdi said.

Fire crews made significant progress overnight, extending the containment line, according to the latest update on the U.S. Forest Service Inciweb site.

Today’s temperatures in the area are forecast to top 100 degrees, with winds expected to peak around 18 mph, fire officials said.

With the fire 80 percent contained, firefighters plan to protect homes and expand containment lines.

Firefighters have been assisted by helicopters making nighttime water drops, which is new for the National Forest Service. In the early hours of the 2006 Station Fire near Mount Wilson, the Forest Service came under fire for refuse night flights or use infrared imaging equipment.

The fire blackened a remote area on the western flanks of Santiago Peak, south of Corona. The fire was not a threat to any cross-mountain routes, firefighters said.

Mandatory evacuations ordered for residents east of 30311 Silverado Canyon Road were lifted Sunday evening, Hallock said. The road remains closed to non-residents, he said.

Area residents should be prepared to show identification and proof of where they live to get past roadblocks, he said.

City News Service

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