Two major out-of-control wildfires in Southern California have spurred mass evacuations and left two firefighters critically injured as the region faces more dangerous fire weather conditions Tuesday.
“This is a tough fire,” Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy told reporters Monday afternoon. “We’re experiencing very high winds, very low humidities. This is a very hazardous job.”
Another blaze, the Blue Ridge Fire, grew to some 8,000 acres as of Tuesday morning as it threatened hundreds of homes in Yorba Linda. That blaze is 0% contained.
Both blazes promoted mass evacuations of more than 100,000 people throughout Orange County as fast-moving flames caused freeways to close.
One home was reported damaged. There are over 700 firefighters battling both blazes.
Pat McGrath, 78, told the Los Angeles Times she was making breakfast when a stranger pounded on the front door of her home in Irvine to inform her of the evacuation orders.
“I just panicked. I started crying,” McGrath said. “I’m cold, I’m hungry, I’m stressed and I don’t know what to do.”
Two firefighters were critically injured battling the Silverado fire near Irvine, according to the county’s fire authority, which didn’t provide details on how the injuries occurred.
They each suffered second- and third-degree burns over large portions of their bodies and were intubated at a hospital, officials said.
“They’re gravely injured,” Fennessy told reporters. “We’re doing all we can for them.”
Fire officials said all air support was grounded due to the high winds, which also made water drops from helicopters ineffective.
In Yorba Linda, a group of residents in one neighborhood worked alongside fire crews Monday night to battle the flames from the Blue Ridge Fire.
Sean Callahan told FOX11 he was there for another fire in the community back in 2008 and was ready to help his neighbors with the latest threat.
"We hopped back into action like we did with all the neighbors [in 2008] that aren't going to let their neighbors down," Callahan said Monday night.
When the fire started, Callahan and a group of his friends and neighbors started hosing down the area near where his father lives.
"We got the hose out and the fire actually wrapped around the canyons and hopped over, and once it hit my dad's neighbor's house, we got the hose out and CalFire was up here and we split the hydrant, and he told us where to go and what to do and we had one house, he [the firefighter] had the other," he told FOX11.
Utility Southern California Edison reported to the state's Public Utilities Commission that is was investigating whether its equipment might have sparked the larger of the two Orange County blazes.
The utility said a wire that lashed a telecommunications line to a supporting cable may have struck a 12,000-volt SCE conducting line above it. The utility had cut power to customers in the region to prevent equipment from being knocked down or fouled by debris in the winds and sparking wildfires.
Dangerous conditions stretch into Tuesday across most of Southern California, where red flag and high wind warnings have been posted by the National Weather Service (NWS).
Forecasts called for Santa Ana winds up to 50 to 80 mph at times over much of Southern California, with some of the strongest gusts howling through Orange County.
High winds have knocked down trees in mountain areas, with residents cutting apart trees blocking escape routes in case evacuations were ordered.
Joanne Hubble, who lives deep in Harding Canyon, told the Orange County Register the winds ripped away the roof on her garage.
“It’s a big mess out here, it’s all around us,” she told the paper Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.