Two wildfires raged across southern California on Tuesday, nearly doubling in volume overnight and forcing hundreds more people to flee during what was the state’s worst fire season on record.
The fires in Orange County have put more than 90,000 people on emergency evacuation orders, many in the town of Irvine. Their homes are threatened by the Silverado fire, which has now burned down on 11,200 acres, and the Blue Ridge fire, which is approximately 8,000 acres in size.
About 700 firefighters have battled the fires, which so far have damaged only one house, but the area of concern has widened as winds blew the fires to new areas, including towards Chino Hills, a city of about 84,000 people located on the corner of Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.
The Orange County Fire Authority, which is the lead agency for fighting the two fires, said it hopes the softening winds will slow the pace of the fires and allow firefighters to use planes to contain the blazes . Silverado Fire is only 5% contained and Blue Ridge Fire is completely unconfined.
On Monday, powerful gusts swept through the area at a speed of 130 km / h, making it more difficult for firefighters to contain the spread of the fires and for residents to evacuate. They also spread smoke in the area.
Two firefighters were seriously injured in the Silverado blaze and they were intubated Monday after receiving second and third degree burns to most of their bodies, said Brian Fennessy, the fire chief. The firefighters are 26 and 31 years old.
Investigators have not determined what started the fires, but on Monday, Southern California Edison filed its second wildland fire report this year, saying his equipment could have caused the Silverado fire. Last month, the utility filed a report saying its equipment was part of an investigation into the cause of the Bobcat fire, which burned more than 115,000 acres near Pasadena.
The 2020 fire season saw massive wildfires raging across California and other western states. Experts have linked the worsening fire season to climate change, as emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels have led to warmer and drier conditions.
Over five million acres burned across California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington state. In California alone, the fires have burned more than 4.1 million acres, destroyed 10,488 homes and other structures, and killed at least 31 people.