Orange County firefighters are battling a rapidly growing wildfire in Silverado Canyon, as strong winds fan the spreading flames and mandatory evacuation orders have been issued to residents throughout the Southern California region.
The Bond Fire has spread to 7,200 acres with zero containment so far, according to the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) as of 5 p.m. on Dec. 3. It began as a house fire on Bond Road in Modjeska Canyon at approximately 10:14 p.m on Dec. 2.
Nearly 500 firefighters are battling the flames on the ground while water-dropping helicopters attack the blaze from the air. Helicopter operations for water-drops are expected to continue throughout the evening of Dec. 3, but were halted earlier due to wind conditions.
Two firefighters who worked for the Cleveland National Forest Service were injured fighting the blaze, according to the OCFA. The fire agency reported at 1:40 p.m. on Dec. 3 that the firefighters were treated by paramedics and transported to a hospital for further care, noting that no further information was available at the time.
“Each fire is going to present its own unique challenges, based on weather conditions and the communities it affects. … They’re each kind of unique in their own way,” OCFA Capt. Brett Buffington told The Epoch Times.
Mandatory evacuation orders for citizens living in the area remain in effect. By shortly after noon on Dec. 3, the OCFA had already issued mandatory evacuation orders for homes in Black Star Canyon, Baker Canyon, Silverado Canyon, Williams Canyon, Modjeska Canyon, Portola Hills, and Foothill Ranch.
Ace and Amy Perkins were in the process of evacuating their Foothill Ranch home after it fell under a mandatory evacuation order when they spoke to The Epoch Times.
“We were told that we had to mandatorily leave and evacuate,” Ace said. “We’re going to spend the day out and about, and then we’re going to stay at a friend’s house.”
The couple said they had also been evacuated during the October fires, but this time, they were more relaxed. Though Ace said he wasn’t afraid, Amy was less sure about the fire reaching their house.
“I feel like it’s unlikely, but you never know. I mean, we did this last time as well,” said Amy.
The couple noted that since the neighborhood had to evacuate last time due to the previous fires, the overall feeling of the area is fairly relaxed, and people are treating it like a “cry wolf situation.”
Voluntary evacuation orders included homes in Cowan Heights, Lemon Heights, Live Oak Canyon, Trabuco Canyon, Rose Canyon, Holy Jim Canyon, and Baker Ranch.
Much of Orange County and the surrounding region remained under Red Flag Warnings issued to indicate “critical fire weather” conditions. The warnings, issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) due to Santa Ana winds and low humidity, are set to continue through Dec. 5.
The NWS on Dec. 3 posted a high wind warning for the Southern California area, expecting 25 to 35 mile per hour winds and strong gusts up to 60 miles per hour through the evening.
Some schools in the region canceled classes on Dec. 3. The Saddleback Valley Unified School District announced that there would be no hybrid or distance learning for Foothill Ranch Elementary, Portola Hills Elementary, and Trabuco Elementary due to the Bond Fire.
All Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) schools were moved to distance learning on Dec. 3 because of poor air quality from the fire. The district noted that there was no threat to IUSD schools, but they were unable to operate their HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems per COVID-19 safety protocols.
OC Animal Care, located in Tustin, announced that it would accept and house dogs, cats, and other small animals from county pet-owners who evacuate. People who leave their animals must provide a photo ID, vet records, special food, and any needed medications for the animal.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department activated the Orange County Emergency Operations Center at 2 a.m. on Dec 3, and county officials staffed the center to support operational needs for the fire.
To mitigate the ongoing danger, Southern California Edison (SCE) had shut off electricity to 51,997 homes in seven Southern California counties. In Orange County, 1,596 homes had their power cut as of 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 3.
SCE had also placed another 189,420 customers under consideration for future shutdowns, including 14,052 in Orange County. SCE instigates power outages during times of critical fire conditions or when fires are occurring because high winds have the ability to knock down power lines or trees.
Buffington, the OCFA public information officer, said the county’s firefighters are well-rested and prepared to tackle the Bond Fire, but added that one of the agency’s biggest challenges is “trying to maintain a healthy workforce” due to COVID.
“I would say all our firefighters as an agency are adequately rested and prepared for this incident,” Buffington said.
“After every large scale incident we have, we have a large scale after-action review, where we take the lessons learned, things we could do better, and try to apply them on any future incidents to always make ourselves better and more efficient.”
John Fredricks contributed to this report.