A wind-driven brush fire in Silverado Canyon sparked by a house fire has burned 7,375 acres, destroyed 30 buildings and was 70% contained Sunday, with residents still under evacuation orders in the Modjeska, Silverado and Williams Canyon areas.
The 30 structures destroyed were not all homes, and another 21 structures were damaged, the Orange County Fire Authority reported.
Firefighters continued to look for and mop up hot spots Saturday while clearing more vegetation around the fire and shoring up the containment lines, the Orange County Fire Authority said in its evening update.
Some 1,588 firefighters were still assigned to the blaze and officials warned that there was still a potential in many areas for a strong wind event to spread the fire and threaten adjacent communities.
Fire officials called a community meeting for 3 p.m. Sunday for residents who evacuated from Silverado, Modjeska and Williams Canyons in Hangar 244 of the Orange County Great Park, 8000 Great Park Blvd. in Irvine. The meeting will be livestreamed on the OCFA Facebook page @OrangeCountyFire. Evacuation orders were lifted for Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills west of El Toro and north of the 241 Toll Road. All evacuation orders were lifted for Lake Forest but the city remained under an evacuation warning.
Voluntary evacuations remained in effect for the following areas:
- 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, according to the Orange County Fire Authority. “Due to COVID-19, no congregate shelter is offered,” the authority tweeted. A temporary Orange County Red Cross evacuation point at Santiago Community College was later replaced by one at El Modena High School, also in Orange.
Officials have also opened another Red Cross evacuation point at El Toro High School in Lake Forest. OCFA Chief Brian 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 gusts in the area that could also delay residents from reentering their homes. Two firefighters were injured battling the blaze. They work for the U.S. Forest Service, assigned to the Cleveland National Forest. They were released from a hospital Thursday night, according to the agency.
One was treated for a leg injury and the other sustained minor bruises, according to the Cleveland National Forest Service. 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 shifts, he said. “All days off are canceled to bring in all resources,” Barnes said.
OCFA personnel responded to the 29400 block of Silverado Canyon Drive at about 10:15 p.m. Wednesday. 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 Orange County Sheriff's Department announced that the county's Emergency Operations Center was activated to support the firefighting effort. A public information hotline 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 https://bit.ly/2Vy231m. Santiago Canyon Road from Jackson Ranch Road to the Eastern Transportation (241 Toll Road) Corridor was closed.
Forecasters issued a fire weather watch for Sunday and Monday, when winds are expected to return. They may not be quite as bad as this week, with the highest gusts 40-50 mph in the foothills and 20-35 mph in the valleys but vegetation is even more dry after the latest wind event, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Liz Schenk.