Schools Reopen, Some Evacuations Lifted Near Canyon Fire 2 in Anaheim Hills

Numerous schools have reopened as evacuation orders in select areas have been lifted.

The 8,000-acre Canyon Fire 2, which has destroyed 13 homes and two other structures in the Anaheim area, was 45 percent contained Wednesday, and some schools were scheduled to reopen.

Most evacuation orders prompted by the fast-moving blaze, which also damaged 21 homes, were lifted around 5 p.m. Tuesday. Home Much of the blaze was doused on the west side of the 241 toll road, allowing crews to focus their efforts on the eastern flank.

The toll road remains closed from the 91 Freeway to the 261 Freeway, according to Anaheim Fire and Rescue.

Homes along Windes Drive north of Santiago Canyon Road remain under mandatory evacuation Wednsday morning in Orange.  That street will remain closed, along with Santa Ana Canyon Road between Woodcrest and Gypsum Canyon roads in Anaheim, fire authorities said.

More than 1,600 firefighters battled the blaze Tuesday and gained momentum thanks to diminished northeast winds, the onset of moist onshore winds, stepped-up manpower on the fire lines and the deployment of numerous water-dropping aircraft. Fire crews reported late Tuesday afternoon that they had built a "solid containment line" along the eastern edge of communities near state Route 241. Containment increased from 5 percent Tuesday morning to 40 percent by the day's end.

Residents returning to their homes were being advised to check their property for fire and water damage to ensure the structure is safe. Officials in Orange advised returning residents who own large animals to wait at least 24 hours before retrieving them.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, officials said.

The fire erupted Monday about a mile from the area scorched by the recent Canyon Fire, which blackened more than 2,600 acres and took more than a week to contain. Smoke from the new blaze could be seen for miles in all directions Monday, prompting warnings from health officials for people to remain indoors.

The fire initially broke out near the Riverside (91) Freeway east of Gypsum Canyon Road, near the Coal Canyon flashpoint of September's Canyon Fire, according to the OCFA. But while last month's Canyon Fire burned east, winds of about 25 mph pushed its sequel to the west on Monday, prompting mandatory evacuation orders for residents south of the Riverside Freeway and west of the 241 toll road.

The evacuation area was repeatedly expanded -- with 5,000 homes in Anaheim Hills, Orange and Tustin under evacuation orders at the fire's height.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency proclamation for Orange County late Monday, freeing up state resources to help with battling the fire. The federal government on Tuesday approved a disaster declaration for California, focusing mostly on fires in the northern part of the state, where at least 15 people have been killed.

Firefighters battled the flames Monday amid dry, gusty conditions that prompted red flag warnings across the region. Those red flag warnings, which denote a high risk of wildfire, expired by mid-morning Tuesday.

Two firefighters suffered a minor smoke-inhalation injuries battling the blaze.

Chapman University in Orange was closed Monday and Tuesday due to smoky air from the blaze, but classes are scheduled to resume today. Santiago Canyon College will remain closed today.

Orange Unified School District officials said El Modena High School, Santiago Charter Middle School and El Rancho Charter Middle School will all reopen today, but six elementary schools -- Anaheim Hills, Canyon Rim, Chapman Hills, Linda Vista, Panorama and Running Springs -- will be closed. All other schools in the district will be open.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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