About 60,000 people were forced to evacuate in the Irvine area on Oct. 26 due to the Silverado Fire, amid red-flag conditions that prompted power blackouts across Southern California.
The blaze started at 6:47 a.m. around Santiago Canyon Road and Silverado Canyon Road, and quickly grew to more than 4,000 acres in a matter of hours with no containment.
“All air support has been grounded due to high winds. If you are in the evacuation area please evacuate immediately,” the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) stated on Twitter.
At around 10 a.m., six Irvine Unified School District elementary schools were issued mandatory evacuation orders by the Irvine Police Department, including Canyon View, Santiago Hills, Portola Springs, Eastwood, Stonegate, and Loma Ridge elementary schools.
Nearly a half hour later, six more schools were announced to be under suggested evacuations: Brywood, Northwood, Cadence Park, Beacon Park, Cypress Village, and Woodbury.
Due to the hybrid learning schedule, none of the middle and high schools were holding in-person instruction, according to the district.
“For those parents unable to make it to the school site, students will be transported by school bus to Irvine High School for reunification with parents/guardians,” the school district stated on its website.
Three Montessori schools were also evacuated—Le Port, Northwood, and Little Explorers—as well as Hicks Canyon and Orchard Hills schools in the Tustin Unified School District.
In addition, around 20,000 homes were evacuated. Several roads were closed, including Portola Pkwy from Highway 241 to Jamboree Road, Highway 241 from Highway 133 to Santiago, and Santiago Canyon Road from Cooks to Highway 241.
About 150 firefighting units with a total of 500 personnel were sent to fight the Silverado Fire, battling wind gusts ranging from 20 mph up to 70 mph, according to the OCFA.
The OCFA announced on Twitter that two firefighters, ages 26 and 31, had been injured in the blaze. The two OFCA Hand Crew members, who were hurt at about 12:15 p.m., received second- and third-degree burns and were currently intubated, according to the post. “Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers,” the tweet said.
Southern California Edison reported that 440 customers in Orange County had their power cut off on Oct. 26 as part of a planned outage to help prevent new wildfires. Nearly 12,800 customers were under consideration for an additional power shutoff.
Thousands of customers in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties also lost power.
The inland area of Orange County was under a red-flag warning for critical fire weather conditions, including strong winds and low humidity, from 2 a.m. on Oct. 26 until 6 p.m. on Oct. 27, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
Humidity was expected to fall to between 5 and 10 percent by the afternoon of Oct. 26. The strongest winds were expected that morning, causing “an increased risk of fire ignitions due to downed trees and powerlines.”
“If fire ignition occurs, conditions will be favorable for rapid fire spread, long range spotting, and extreme fire behavior which would threaten life and property,” the NWS stated.
As smoke from the Silverado Fire billowed across the county, the Orange County Health Care Agency warned elderly and young residents and those with health conditions to stay indoors with their windows closed and the air conditioning running. Outdoor activity should be minimized, especially vigorous exercise.
The City of Irvine set up a number of evacuation centers on Oct. 26, but nearly all were reportedly full by early afternoon.
Those still available included Las Lomas Community Center at 10 Federation Way and Turtle Rock Community Center at 1 Sunnyhill. Another was being established at Village Church of Irvine at 77 Post.
The others are located in University Community Center at 1 Beech Tree Lane, Quail Hill Community Center at 39 Shady Canyon Drive, Los Olivos Community Center at 101 Alfonso Drive, Harvard Community Center at 14701 Harvard, and Rancho Senior Center at 3 Ethel Coplen Way.
At least one official has released a statement requesting assistance from the state and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) requested resources and “mutual aid” from the governor.
“I hope that the governor will bring the necessary state resources necessary to protect lives and property,” Moorlach said.