ANAHEIM (CNS) - Firefighters continued their week-long battle Thursday against the Canyon Fire 2 in the Anaheim Hills, with full containment of the 9,217-acre blaze expected on Saturday.
All evacuation orders were lifted as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, and several local schools and colleges that closed earlier in the week were open for business today.
Santa Ana Canyon Road between Woodcrest and Gypsum Canyon roads in Anaheim remains closed, as does the SR-241 toll road between the 91 Freeway and Santiago Canyon Road.
The toll road will remain closed indefinitely, according to Lisa Telles of the Transportation Corridor Agencies, which manages toll roads in Orange County. The flames damaged electrical cables, signs, guardrails, fences and traffic control devices, Telles said.
Since breaking out Monday, the fire has destroyed 23 structures, damaged another 36 and threatened some 3,500 structures, according to the latest update from the Orange County Fire Authority. More than 1,400 firefighters and other responders from multiple agencies were working on the blaze.
It was 60 percent contained as of midday Thursday. Three minor injuries have been reported in the fire, including two firefighters who suffered minor smoke inhalation.
Also today, the city of Anaheim announced that an assistance center would open Friday at 9 a.m. for those whose homes were lost or damaged in the fire. It will be located at the East Anaheim Gymnasium, 8165 E. Santa Ana Canyon Rd.
Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi cautioned Wednesday morning that the exact figures on the number of structures destroyed and damaged were "fluctuating,'' and said only about 25 percent of possibly affected structures had been inspected so far.
Concialdi also urged residents to drive carefully in the affected areas.
Authorities acknowledged hundreds of prisoners from the Fenner Canyon Conservation Camp in Valyermo in the Mojave Desert who helped extinguish hot spots and clear brush Wednesday, preventing the blaze from kicking up again, The Orange County Register reported.
"The inmates provide a valuable resource,'' Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz told The Register of the near 500 minimum-security inmates who assisted in the fight. "It seeds the march toward our goal of 100 percent containment of this fire.''
The inmates must volunteer to work in fire camps and meet other requirements and are paid $2 for each day in camp and $1 an hour while they are on a fire line, the newspaper reported.
Firefighters got a leg up on the blaze Tuesday 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.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. It 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. The new 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.