Fiery Car Crash Ignites a Hillside Brush Fire in Orange County

Firefighters prevented the flames from spreading along Santiago Canyon Road during a day of high fire danger

Flames raced up an Orange County hillside early Thursday after a driver crashed into a utility pole, ignited a fire in dry brush.

The crash was reported at about 3:40 a.m. on northbound State Route 241 near Santiago Canyon Road. The newer-model Toyota Corolla was fully engulfed in flames and sparked a fire on a nearby hillside, the California Highway Patrol said.

Firefighters, already prepared for a day of high fire danger due to strong winds, fully contained the fire, which is expected to be less than five acres, said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Paul Holaday.

"A combination of ground crews and night dropping helicopters are being utilized to fight this fire," according to the OCFA.

"We'll continue to monitor it for any potential flare-ups," Holaday said.

Witnesses helped pull the driver, Eirc Lopez, 26, of Orange, out of the car, the CHP said. Lopez, who was booked on suspicion of DUI but refused to take a test, was taken to Orange County Global Medical Center to be treated for a broken collar bone, said California Highway Patrol Officer John DeMatteo.

Lopez, who refused to take DUI
tests, was taken to Orange County Global Medical Center to be treated for a
broken collar bone, DeMatteo said.

Santiago Canyon Road from Loma Ridge Road to State Route 241 was closed until at least noon.

At 6:35 a.m., Caltrans reported that Southern California Edison had "de-energized various circuits in North Orange County."

"This will have impacts to the lighting on SR-241 and SR-261," Caltrans said in a statement. "Please drive safely and treat any flashing red signals as a stop sign."

Edison officials said earlier in the week that the utility was considering precautionary power shutoffs to de-energize power lines in danger of being damaged or downed by strong winds, potentially sparking wildfires.

Strong winds are expected Thursday and Friday, raising the region's wildfire threat. Santa Ana winds, produced by surface high pressure over the Great Basin squeezing air down through canyons and passes in Southern California's mountain ranges, are common in the fall and have a long history of fanning destructive wildfires in the region.

Fall is historically one of the most dangerous times of the year for wildfires in California. Seven of the state's 10-most destructive wildfires occurred in October — many fueled by monster winds, including Santa Ana gusts. 

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