RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, CA —A wind-driven brush fire in Silverado Canyon sparked by a house fire has burned 7,375 acres, destroyed 31 buildings and was 60% contained as of 10 a.m.
Residents are now under evacuation warnings in Silverado and Williams Canyon.
The Orange County Fire Authority gave notice that the change from evacuation orders to warnings took effect as of 3 p.m. Sunday. However, only residents will be permitted in the fire areas as firefighters are continuing to work in the burn areas. There also may be intermittent road closures, the OCFA reported.
Over 30 structures destroyed, a combination of homes and outbuildings. Another 21 structures were damaged, the OCFA reported Sunday night.
Evacuation warnings were also lifted in Lake Forest and the Foothill Ranch area.
"Overnight, firefighters continued to construct firelines and patrol the fire area," a spokesperson from incident command reported. "Firelines are holding and Monday, crews would work to improve containment and maintain patrols.
"There is still potential in some areas for a strong wind event to spread the fire and threaten adjacent communities," OCFA reports.
Monday, 1,489 firefighters are assigned to the blaze with 102 engines, 5 water tenders, 10 water and retardant dropping helicopters, 38 hand crews, 9 bulldozers, and 307 other miscellaneous personnel.
"Firefighting air tankers from throughout the state are flying fire suppression missions as conditions allow," a spokesperson said. Agencies assisting the Orange County Fire Authority and the US Forest Service include CHP, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Department of Transportation, California Office of Emergency Services, California Conservation Corps, City of Lake Forest, Orange County Parks, Orange County Health Care Agency, National Service, SoCal Edison and Southern California Gas.
Winds were expected to pick up again Monday overnight into Tuesday morning in the inland Orange County area, with gusts up to 45 mph.
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.
Hard closures will remain in place on Santiago Canyon Road at Highway 241 and Santiago Canyon Road at Silverado Canyon Road.
Residents can access the area via the traffic control point at the intersection of Santiago Canyon Road and Ridgeline Road.
Evacuees were strongly encouraged to stay with family or friends or in a hotel, according to the OCFA.
"Due to COVID-19, no congregate shelter is offered," the authority tweeted. An evacuation center remains open at El Modena High School, in Orange.
Large animal evacuation centers are still open at the Anaheim Equestrian Center: 1370 S. Sanderson Avenue and at the Orange County Fair and Event Center: 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
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 Orange County Sheriff Department's website
Forecasters issued a fire weather watch for Sunday and Monday, when winds are expected to return.
City News Service, Patch editor Ashley Ludwig contributed to this report.