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Nearly 100,000 Evacuated as Silverado and Blue Ridge Fires Continue to Rage Across Orange County

More evacuations have been called for residents throughout Orange County in response to the Blue Ridge Fire, the second blaze to erupt in the county Monday, shortly after evacuations began for the Silverado Fire.

The Blue Ridge Fire, which broke out at 12:45 p.m. Monday due to intense winds in the area, has scorched 15,200 acres as of 12:00 p.m. Tuesday. This has forced evacuations in Yorba Linda just north of the 91 freeway, east of Gypsum Canyon Road and along Hidden Hills Road, as well as all of Carbon Canyon. The Silverado Fire, which erupted at 6:45 a.m. Monday morning, has scorched 11,200 acres of land throughout the Silverado Canyon and along the 241 freeway.

According to officials at a press conference on Monday night, the two fires have collectively displaced approximately 91,000 Orange County residents and have caused several road closures. This number has since increased with new evacuations issued Tuesday morning.

“We would like to remind everybody to have a plan and be ready to heed the warnings when we ask you to evacuate, and that you do heed those warnings and you do evacuate immediately,”  OCFA Division Chief Shane Sherwood said during the press conference. “That will help us get in and start knocking down the fire and to keep all residents safe.”

As of 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, the Silverado Fire is 5% contained, while the Blue Ridge Fire remains 0% contained.

Temporary evacuations centers have been opened for displaced residents in both Yorba Linda and throughout Irvine, with several reaching capacity according to the Irvine Evacuation Zone Map

Screenshot of Irvine Evacuation Zone Map provided by Danielle Dawson/Courtesy

University High School, Woodbridge High School, Las Lomas Community Center, Turtle Rock Community Center, University Community Center, Quail Hill Community Center, Los Olivos Community Center, the Harvard Community Center and the Rancho Senior Center have been established as temporary shelters for displaced Irvine residents. The Thomas Lasorda Jr. Field House has been established as the temporary evacuation center in Yorba Linda.

COVID-19 safety guidelines have been implemented in these facilities, including mandatory face masks, social distancing and temperature checks.

Residents that have not been evacuated are asked to remain in their homes and keep their windows closed due to poor air quality.

“I just want to say our number one focus is to protect our residents, ensure their safety, their animals safety, and I want to encourage all other residents affected by the smoke to close their windows,” Irvine Mayor Christina Shea told the Voice of OC.

According to Irvine Police Sgt. Karie Davies and the OCFA, over 1,700 firefighters are currently on the frontlines fighting the two fires. Over 150 police personnel have been employed to evacuate areas throughout Irvine, as stated by Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel.

Due to high speed and erratic winds, aircrafts were largely grounded throughout the day Monday. However, OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy confirmed Monday night that one large air tanker, DC-10, had been employed on the Blue Ridge Fire and several other OCFA aircrafts, including Bell 412 helicopters and a large helitanker, could be employed soon on the Silverado Fire.

“Once the velocity of the wind diminishes to a point where it’s safe for them to fly, they will be flying,” he said. Fennessy expects the winds to die down sometime Tuesday afternoon.

As of 10:55 a.m. Tuesday, OCFA confirmed that 14 helicopters have been employed over the Silverado Fire. It is unclear whether these are the aircrafts Fennessy referenced Monday.

Two firefighters have confirmed to have been severely injured with second and third degree burns while battling the Silverado Fire on the ground. Both have been hospitalized and remain in critical condition. There has been no report of an injury caused by the Blue Ridge Fire.

The two injured firefighters were working near the “heel of fire,” according to Fennessy, however, there is no current information regarding what occurred.

“I was at the hospital shortly after both firefighters were brought to the hospital. They’re gravely injured,” Fennessy said. “We’re giving them all the support we can, not only through our Chaplain program, but we have a very comprehensive peer program and behavior health program.”

According to a tweet from OCFA, 10 homes have reported damage as a result of the Blue Ridge Fire. However, there is no confirmation yet on the extent. There has been no confirmed structure loss as a result of the Silverado Fire.

According to Shea and the OCFA, evacuations are to remain in place until further notice.

“We are urging everyone to comply with the evacuation orders please for their safety and the safety of our first responders,” Shea said in Monday night’s press conference.

More information regarding evacuations can be found on the City of Irvine website, the Orange County Government website or via the Emergency Information Line at 714-573-6210.

Danielle Dawson is a 2020-2021 City News Co-Editor. She can be reached at citynews@newuniversity.org.