Silverado Fire: 98% contained; 2 firefighters remain in critical condition
IRVINE, Calif. - With calming winds, firefighters continued to make progress on the Silverado Fire that forced tens of thousands of evacuations.
All mandatory evacuations in Orange County have been lifted as of Thursday, Oct. 29. Residents were advised that they could start returning home, fire officials said during a press conference.
The Silverado Fire erupted in the Santiago Canyon on the morning of Oct. 26.
As of Wednesday, the 12,466-acre fire is 98% contained, Cal Fire reported.
Fire officials said 69,058 structures were threatened by what was initially a wind-driven blaze, but so far, only one structure has been destroyed. An additional seven structures were damaged.
IRVINE, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 26: Firefighters work as the Silverado Fire burns toward a home in Orange County on October 26, 2020 in Irvine, California. The fire has prompted mandatory evacuations of 60,000 residents and has grown to 4,000 acres. (Ph (Getty Images)
Five firefighters have been injured, including two who were critically injured while battling the blaze, officials said.
Three of the firefighters were treated for minor injuries and have been released. The other two, who are members of the Orange County Fire Authority hand crew, suffered second and third-degree burns. The firefighters are said to be 26 and 31-years-old; both have been released from the hospital.
OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy said the two young firefighters are “fighting for their lives.”
Fennessy says they have received an outpour of support from the community.
Orange County Firefighters are raising money to help the two injured firefighters. Donations are being accepted through GoFundMe as well as the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.
With more favorable weather conditions, fire officials said Wednesday their primary goal was to “reinforce existing controlled lines.”
During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, authorities warned that callers asking for contributions to government agencies are fraudulent.
No firefighter or official will call people asking for money, authorities said.
More than 150 firefighting units responded to the blaze Monday morning. Fire crews reported 20-30 mph "erratic winds" that can reach gusts up to 50-70 mph.
The area continued to get slammed with strong winds. Just after 9:30 a.m., the flames jumped the 241 Freeway, which caused tens of thousands of residents to be evacuated, the Orange County Fire Authority said.
By 11:45 a.m. Monday, more than 20,000 homes had been evacuated, OCFA reported.
Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said the city opened up eight facilities to shelter evacuated residents and several quickly filled up.
Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel said city officials were working with the American Red Cross to provide overnight shelter for residents with no place to go. The city animal shelter was open to house pets.
Those who need assistance evacuating are being asked to call 714-628-7085.
All evacuation orders and warnings related to the Silverado Fire have been lifted as of Oct. 29. and residents are able to return home.
However, the following communities remain under voluntary evacuation orders:
• Williams Canyon
• Modjeska Canyon
According to the city of Irvine, care and shelter facilities are available at the following locations:
• University Community Center: 1 Beech Tree Lane, Irvine, CA 92612
• Quail Hill Community Center: 39 Shady Canyon Dr, Irvine, CA 92603
• Rancho Senior Center: 3 Ethel Coplen Way, Irvine, CA 92612
Update: By late Monday morning, officials reported the centers listed above were full. However, space remains available at the following:
• Las Lomas Community Center: 10 Federation Way, Irvine, CA 92603
• Harvard Community Center: 14701 Harvard Avenue, Irvine, CA 92606
• Turtle Rock Community Center: 1 SunnyhillIrvine, Irvine, CA 92603
• Norman P. Murray Community Center: 24932 Veterans Way, Mission Viejo, CA 92692 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
• El Toro High School: 25255 Toledo Way, Lake Forest, CA 92630
Officials said they were working to open more evacuation centers as needed, Irvine Mayor Christina L. Shea said.
The following roads have reopened.
• HWY 241 Northbound and Southbound from HWY 91 to HWY 261
• HWY 261 Northbound and Southbound from HWY 241 to I-5
• HWY 241 Northbound and Southbound from Alton Pkwy to Oso Pkwy
• HWY 133 Southbound from Irvine Blvd. to I-5
The following roads remain closed.
• Portolla from 241 to Jamboree
• Santiago Canyon Rd from Cooks to the 241
• State Route 241 from Santiago Canyon Road to State Route 133
The following portions of the Toll Roads are closed:
133 Toll Road
• I-5 connector to NB 133
• NB 133 between I-5 and 241
• NB 133 connector to NB 241
• SB 133 between the 241 and Irvine Blvd.
241 Toll Road
• NB 241 from Oso Pkwy to SR 91
• SB 241 between SR 91 and Lake Forest Dr.
261 Toll Road
• NB 261 between Irvine Blvd and 241/Santiago Canyon
• SB 261 between 241/Santiago Canyon Rd and Portola Pkwy
Irvine Boulevard is also closed between Jamboree Road and Bake Parkway.
As the fire grew on its first day, FOX 11's Sandra Endo was battered by the ferocious winds and was asked to leave the area by fire officials. She has since moved to a safer location.
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Firefighters initially used air and ground assault. However, air assault was later halted the afternoon of Oct. 26 due to high winds speed.
The howling winds continued to knock the flames across the hillside in the rugged terrain in the remote area.
Southern California Edison sent a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission Monday night acknowledging it had overhead electric facilities in the area that the blaze broke out.
"We have no indication of any circuit activity prior to the report time of the fire, nor downed overhead primary conductors in the origin area," SCE said in the letter.
"However, it appears 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."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
As expected, the fire was causing poor air quality in surrounding communities.
Crews with Cal Fire, the Los Angeles Fire Department, and the Anaheim Fire Department were sent to assist.
FOX 11's Shelly Insheiwat, Mary Stringini and CNS contributed to this report.