SILVERADO (CBSLA) – Some evacuation orders for the city of Irvine were lifted Tuesday afternoon even as the Silverado Fire continued to grow after forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.
Residents south of Portola Parkway were being allowed to return to their homes after firefighters successfully battled to hold back the flames from the fire, which grew to 13,354 acres, with 5% containment.
Three more firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze, but all were treated and released. Two other firefighters who suffered major burn injuries Monday remain in critical condition and “fighting for their lives,” according to OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy.
The fire broke out before 7 a.m. Monday in the area of Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads amid powerful Santa Ana winds and red flag conditions. Within about three hours it had exploded to 2,000 acres.
About 91,000 residents were ordered to evacuate in the Irvine and Lake Forest area. Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said the city opened eight facilities to shelter evacuated residents and several quickly filled up.
Flames shot up hillsides in Foothill Ranch early Tuesday morning, with hundreds of firefighters trying to ensure the blaze stayed on the hill and didn’t reach the homes below.
Winds were so strong Monday, measuring up to 60 miles per hour, that officials couldn’t use aerial crews to battle the flames. Firefighters were getting more favorable conditions Tuesday. About 750 firefighters were assigned to the blaze Tuesday with the help of 14 water-dropping helicopters.
While the cause of the fire remains unknown, Southern California Edison sent a letter to California regulators stating that a “lashing wire” may have potentially sparked the fire.
In the letter to the California Public Utilities Commission it wrote that a “lashing wire that was attached to an underbuilt telecommunication line may have contact SCE’s overhead primary conductor which may have resulted in the ignition of the fire.”
Two firefighters with the Orange County Fire Authority suffered second and third degree burns Monday afternoon battling the fire. The firefighters, ages 26 and 31, were hospitalized and were put on ventilators at OC Global Medical Center in Santa Ana.
“I know them personally,” OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy said. “They’re gravely injured. Their families are with them. I was with them when their families arrived. Obviously, it’s very emotional. We’re giving them all the support we can.”
The two firefighters were “at the heel of the fire where it started,” he said.
Evacuations were initially ordered for the Orchard Hills community along Irvine Boulevard, from Bake Parkway to Jamboree Road, and then expanded. Baker Ranch, Portola Ranch and Foothill Ranch in Lake Forest were evacuated Monday afternoon. Jackson Ranch and Williams Canyon are also under mandatory evacuations.
Silverado, Modjeska and Trabuco canyons along Live Oak Canyon were under an evacuation warning Tuesday. Click here to enter your address and view details about the latest evacuation information.
Several sections of the 241, 133 and 91 freeways remain closed.
All schools in the Irvine and Tustin Unified school districts will be closed Tuesday, including distance learning classes in Tustin Unified.
Hours after state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to approve disaster funding help, Newsom announced a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help provide resources and a 75% reimbursement for firefighting costs.
Meanwhile, hundreds of firefighters are also battling the Blue Ridge Fire which broke out in Corona Monday afternoon and spread west into Chino Hills and Yorba Linda. The 8,000-acre blaze has destroyed one home.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)