IRVINE, Calif. (CNS)—Containment of the 13,390-acre Silverado Fire increased to 51 percent by the evening of Oct. 28, while thousands of evacuated Irvine residents in its path were able to return home.
All evacuation orders and warnings were lifted at 11 a.m. on Oct. 29 and several highways were reopened.
“A lot of great work has been done over the last two days,” said Operations Section Chief Tim Ernst of the California Department of Forest and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
“We don’t anticipate either of the two perimeters [of the Blue Ridge and Silverado fires] moving much.”
Cal Fire, which is in charge of the firefighting effort, is focusing on fortifying the positions of firefighters, cleaning up areas already under control, and watching for flare-ups. Six helicopters were aiding 1,210 firefighters on the ground with water drops on the night of Oct. 29.
Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) Chief Brian Fennessy said there has been no change in the health of two firefighters who remain in critical condition.
“We’re still heavy at heart concerning our two firefighters,” Fennessy said.
“I just left the hospital and was there late last night. They’re still in a serious fight for their lives and their families are holding up as well as you can expect.”
The two had been with the agency for about a year and were at the heel of the blaze working on a hand crew, Fennessy said.
“I can’t keep up with my emails, my text messages from fire departments, fire chiefs, people from all over this country. The prayers we’re receiving, the families are receiving, they’re overwhelmed with the support. And they’re really seeing what the fire service and the fire family is all about,” he said.
“We ask the community that they keep their thoughts and prayers with our two critically injured firefighters, as they battle for their lives, and for their families, again, I want to say thank you very much.”
Fennessy said he asked Cal Fire to help investigate how the firefighters were injured.
“The winds were extraordinary even by Santa Ana standards,” Fennessy said. “Fire spread is exceeding more than anything I’ve seen in my 44 years.”
Nothing unusual appears to have contributed to the situation.
“This is a hazardous occupation,” Fennessy said. “As far as I know, there was nothing extraordinary that occurred that put them in any out-of-the-ordinary risk.”
Fennessy said he was grateful Cal Fire took command of the blazes because it allows him to spend more time with the families of the injured firefighters and their coworkers.
“Our hearts are heavy, but we’re optimistic and all of us are praying and hoping for the very best,” Fennessy said.
Northbound Highway 133 is closed between Interstate 5 and Highway 241, and northbound Highway 241 is closed between Alton Parkway and Highway 261, according to Cal Fire.
Five structures have been damaged, and one structure and two “minor structures” were destroyed in the fire, Cal Fire said. More than 69,000 buildings were threatened by flames.
Because of the wildfires, around 150 animals had to be temporarily relocated to the Santa Ana Zoo from the Orange County Zoo, located in Irvine Regional Park, due to evacuation orders.
The animals included bears, goats, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, a porcupine, and different birds of prey. Staff for the Orange County Zoo also had to relocate in order to help care for the displaced animals.
Animals were also being sheltered at the Orange County Fair and Events Center in Costa Mesa and at the Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress.
The animals and staff were only there for a short period.
Marisa O’Neil, an Orange County Parks public information officer, told The Epoch Times via email that zoo staff had started returning animals to the Orange County Zoo on Oct. 28.
The Frank R. Bowerman Landfill in Irvine was damaged in the fire, according to Orange County Waste & Recycling (OCWR), which owns and operates the landfill.
“OCWR staff have reported significant damage to the environmental control and stormwater infrastructure” resulting from multiple spot fires throughout the landfill property, OCWR said in a statement on Oct. 28.
None of the landfill’s structures or heavy equipment were damaged, however, and no injuries were reported.
High winds, which handicapped firefighters when the fire broke out on Oct. 26, were much less of a factor on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.
The repopulation on the morning of Oct. 28 of parts of Irvine was a “testament to the hard work of all firefighters on the ground and in the air that have worked hard the past two days to protect life and property,” according to OCFA’s Steve Concialdi, who added that no homes have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the Silverado Fire.
At its height, 70,000 people were under evacuation orders in Irvine and another 9,500 evacuated in Lake Forest, according to the OCFA and Lake Forest officials.
The fire erupted at 6:47 a.m. on Oct. 26 in the area of Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads in the Santa Ana Mountains.
Late on Oct. 26, Southern California Edison (SCE) told California officials that a lashing wire may have contacted its overhead primary conductor, sparking the fire. SCE sent a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission on the evening of Oct. 26 acknowledging it had overhead electrical equipment in the area where the blaze broke out.
Five firefighters have been injured in the Silverado blaze, Fennessy said. The other firefighters were treated for minor injuries at local hospitals and released, Fennessy said.
Those wishing to donate to the injured firefighters can contribute to the OCPFA Fallen Firefighters Relief Fund at www.ocfirefighters.org.
The two firefighters critically injured are 26 and 31 years old. Both sustained second- and third-degree burns about 12:15 p.m. on Oct. 26, one over 65 percent of his body and the other over half his body, Fennessy said.
Both firefighters were intubated at OC Global Medical Center in Santa Ana, he said.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said con artists are using the fires to trick residents into thinking they’re donating to a good cause. Police and fire agencies will never call for donations, so people should hang up on anyone purporting to represent police and fire seeking donations, Barnes said.
He reminded people that it’s important for them to be up-to-date on potential future evacuation warnings, both mandatory and voluntary.
“We do ask that you still remain prepared and ready to leave if notice does come. So you can return home, but always stay prepared. This incident is not completely over and we ask that you remain ready, if asked to leave,” Barnes said.
Full containment isn’t expected until Nov. 10.
Drew Van Voorhis of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.