IRVINE (CBSLA) – Thousands of Irvine residents who were ordered to evacuate due to the Silverado Fire returned home Wednesday as firefighters made significant progress amid calmer winds.
The blaze, which injured two firefighters and blackened 13,354 acres, jumped in containment from 5% to 32%.
Evacuation orders and warnings for Irvine and Mission Viejo were lifted as well as in many parts of Lake Forest.
While some 69,000 buildings were threatened by flames, none were destroyed.
At the fire’s height, more than 91,000 people were evacuated. However, many of those evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday.
More than 1,200 firefighters are battling the fire with the help of eight water-dropping helicopters.
The powerful Santa Ana winds and red flag conditions which helped spread the fire have diminished.
“Today, fire crews will reinforce existing controlled lines,” CAL Fire said in a statement. “With favorable weather, fire crews will find opportunities to establish more control lines.”
While some areas are still under mandatory evacuation, residents expressed frustration that they could not return to their homes despite not seeing any flames or smoke nearby.
Some parked outside of the evacuation road closures and walked in.
“I think a lot of people are very frustrated about that,” said resident Becky Pham. “But I’ve heard that there’s still some hot spots in the canyon that we can’t see…”
Residents who did return said they were glad to be back and thankful that firefighters were able to save their homes.
Early Tuesday morning, Peter Frankudakis watched from his security camera as two firefighters fought off flames coming toward his backyard.
“My wife and I looked at the camera and started seeing the flames and embers, and then seeing the crews in the backyard…it’s a little nerve-racking,” he said. “Men and women of the fire crews…I can’t even say enough for them. Absolutely massive respect for them.”
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. It jumped the 241 Freeway and began spreading west. Within about three hours it had exploded to 2,000 acres.
Five firefighters have been injured in the Silverado Fire. Two are in critical condition and the three others have been treated for minor injuries at local hospitals and released.
The two in critical condition are 26 and 31 years old. Both sustained second- and third-degree burns Monday afternoon, one over 65% of his body and the other over half his body, Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said.
Both firefighters were intubated at OC Global Medical Center in Santa Ana.
Meanwhile, all residents south of Portola Parkway and west of the 133 Freeway were allowed back into their homes Tuesday, as were those living east of the 133 Freeway to Portola High School and between Irvine and Great Park boulevards.
Everyone living south of Portola, east of the 133, and west of Axis was also allowed back home.
It’s unclear how many people still remain under evacuation. Mandatory evacuation orders are in place for Jackson Ranch, Williams Canyon and Modjeska Canyon.
As of around 3 p.m., all evacuations in the city of Irvine due to the Silverado Fire have been lifted, according to the Orange County Fire Authority. Some evacuations are still in place in parts of Lake Forest.
Several portions of the 241, 261, 91 and 133 freeways remain closed.
All schools in the Irvine Unified School District are closed Wednesday. Tustin Unified schools will operate on a normal schedule, except for special education classes, which will be conducted online, the district said.
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 14,300-acre blaze has destroyed one home and damaged at least seven more.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)