Photo by Orange County Fire Authority/Twitter

Mandatory evacuations were once again called for Foothill Ranch and parts of Portola Hills as a structure fire in the Silverado Canyon area exploded to over 7,000 acres late Wednesday night, due to strong Santa Ana winds throughout Southern California.

Portola Hills west of El Toro Canyon and north of the 241 Toll Road were issued mandatory evacuation orders, while the rest of the neighborhood is under a voluntary evacuation warning as of 6:30 a.m.

As of 12:00 p.m. Thursday, the Bond Fire, which broke out at 10:15 p.m. on Dec. 2, has currently burned through approximately 7,200 acres and is 0% contained.

According to the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), the origin of the fire has been linked to a structure fire on the 29,000 block of Silverado Canyon. By 1 a.m. the fire had burned over 1000 acres due to strong winds in the area, with gusts that have reached speeds as high as 85 mph.

Multiple structures have been reportedly damaged due to the fire. The number and extent of damage has not yet been verified by the OCFA.

The National Weather Service issued a rare “particularly dangerous” red flag warning Wednesday afternoon for the Santa Clarita Valley and mountain areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties in response to the presence of high Santa Ana winds in the area. These winds combined with dry air are forecasted to allow for “any wildfires to spread uncontrollably.”

“[The winds are] forecasting to be pretty intense — very similar to what we saw last month with the Silverado and Blue Ridge Fires, so we’re definitely concerned and monitoring it,” Captain Greg Barta from OCFA said in an interview with KTLA.

Barta and the OCFA expect the winds to pick up more later tonight. The National Weather Service forecasts that the winds will begin to decrease to around 25-50 mph sometime Thursday night through Saturday.

Mandatory evacuations are under way for residents of Silverado Canyon, Williams Canyon and Modjeska Canyon. Voluntary evacuations are currently in place for Cowan Heights, Lemon Heights, Borrego Canyon, Baker Ranch, Live Oak Canyon, Trabuco Canyon, Rose Canyon, Orchard Hills, Valley Vista Way and Meadow Ridge Drive.

“You’re strongly encouraged to seek safety with family/friends or in a hotel,” the OCFA said on Twitter. “Due to COVID-19, no congregate shelter is offered [by OCFA].”

The City of Lake Forest has established two care centers for evacuees at El Toro High School and the Refinery at Saddleback Church. COVID-19 safety protocols, including social distancing and mandatory masks, are in place at these locations.

The OCFA has opened a temporary OC Red cross evacuation point at 8405 E. Chapman in Orange with restrooms and information. OC Animal Care has offered to house small household pets at their facility at 1630 Victory Road in Tustin.

Road closures have been ordered on Santiago Canyon from Jackson Ranch to the 241. Schools throughout the county have also suspended in-person operation, shifting back to a remote format due to the fires and subsequent air quality.

Air quality within Orange County has been designated as “unhealthy.” The OFCA advised in a tweet that residents limit their outdoor activities.

Screenshot of AirNow Fire and Smoke Map provided by Danielle Dawson/Courtesy

According to the OCFA, approximately 500 firefighters are on the ground to combat the fire in addition to fire tankers and helicopters.

“We’ve increased our staffing by about 10% in anticipation of this wind event that is going to last the next few days,” Barta told KTLA. “We want to be ready should something occur, we want to be able to send a very robust response.”

According to a press release from the Irvine City Council, the Bond Fire does not currently pose a threat to residents despite being visible from the city. The Irvine Police Department said in a tweet that the burn area from the Silverado Fire is expected to “provide a buffer for the City.” 

Late October, two wind-driven fires, the Silverado and Blue Ridge Fires, scorched through Orange County, displacing nearly 100,000 Orange County residents. The Silverado Fire, which erupted Oct. 26 and also burned along Silverado Canyon, was reported as fully contained by Cal Fire on Nov. 7, after reaching 12,466 acres.

At 11:15 a.m., the Irvine Police Department issued a voluntary evacuation order for Orchard Hills and a care center was opened at Cypress Community Center for evacuees. Currently, no mandatory evacuations have been made for residents in Irvine.

Photo by Christina Reyes/Staff

Irvine open space trails have closed for the day “out of an abundance of caution” and all city programming has been cancelled due to poor air quality.

The City of Irvine could not be reached for further comment.

The OC Sheriff has posted a real time evacuation map for the Bond Fire that can be found here. The Orange County Emergency Operations Center has also activated their hotline for residents, which can be reached at 714-628-7085.

Ian Anzlowar is a 2020-2021 City News Co-Editor. He can be reached at citynews@newuniversity.org.

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