Exacerbated by wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour and extremely dry conditions, a rapid wildfire spread over more than 7,200 acres in southern California on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of 25,000 residents, officials said.
Two US Forest Service firefighters were hospitalized with non-fatal injuries they sustained Thursday while trying to contain the Bond fire, which had started the previous night in the Santa Ana Mountains of Orange County, to the south -is Los Angeles, authorities said.
The mountains share the name of the Santa Ana Winds, hot desert winds that descend on the Pacific Coast region around Los Angeles and often fuel forest fires, according to the National Weather Service. Fire officials attributed the spread of the Bond fire to the winds.
On Wednesday, several hours before the wildfire began, the Orange County Fire Authority had placed the county under a red flag warning and urged residents to be aware of the increasing danger of fire due to the dry and windy conditions.
The blaze began with a blaze at a house in Silverado, about 80 miles from Los Angeles, and quickly spread to the surrounding area, firefighters said. The cause was under investigation.
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, around 25,000 people had been evacuated to several communities northeast of Irvine, according to emergency responders, who said there had been no containment of the blaze.
“We know a number of homes have been damaged, potentially destroyed,” Brian Fennessy, the Orange County Fire Authority chief, said at an afternoon press conference.
Chief Fennessy said more than 500 firefighters were fighting the blazes and more than 30 agencies were involved in the effort, including fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
He urged residents of affected communities, some of whom were still reeling from a forest fire in October, to use their common sense when deciding whether or not to evacuate.
“You don’t have to wait for us to call you,” said Chef Fennessy. “If in doubt, evacuate.”
Emergency responders said broken power lines and utility poles posed dangers to area residents.
At the same press conference, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes warned residents that they should have their medications and other necessities ready to go in case they need to evacuate.
“When you need to go, go then,” Sheriff Barnes said.
Greta Gustafson, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Orange County, said Thursday that the organization had provided hotel rooms to 170 evacuees. The Red Cross has set up a temporary evacuation point at a local high school, she said.
The Bond blaze is not far from where two firefighters were seriously injured in October during efforts to contain the Silverado blaze, which burned more than 12,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 130,000 people.
A spokeswoman for the US Forest Service said Thursday that injuries sustained by firefighters in the Bond blaze were not life threatening.
Mohadeseh Sadollahi, 47, owner of Bellaria Café in Foothill Ranch, a community south of the blaze that had been ordered to evacuate, said the roads had been closed.
“They can’t walk, they can’t drive,” she said of the residents. “People can’t get anything. Besides Covid-19, this is on top of that.
Ms Sadollahi said she lost five working days due to the Silverado fire in October, which worsened the economic effects of the pandemic.
“Because of the fire, the air quality is very bad,” she says. “People cannot sit outside or sit inside. As a small business owner who pays all of my bills and my rent, I can’t deal with this very easily. “
Chary Chaisawasdi, 45, an employee of the Twohubs Cycling Boutique in Foothill Ranch, said on Thursday the area was empty.
“It was pretty much a ghost town,” he says. “I didn’t realize the fire was so bad.”
He said he was not surprised by the latest wildfire.
“For us, it’s a routine, every 10 years,” he says. “It’s kind of like you live in California, you expect earthquakes and fires. I think Covid is affecting the region more, to be honest.