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Firefighters Hurt, Thousands Evacuated In Wind-Driven Bond Fire Near Irvine


IRVINE (CBSLA) – Two firefighters were injured Thursday in a 6,400-acre wildfire burning east of Irvine that forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

Bond Fire
A car drives north to escape the Bond Fire as it crosses Santiago Canyon Road near Silverado Canyon on Thursday, December 3, 2020. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

The Bond Fire was sparked by a house fire before 10:15 p.m. Wednesday night in the 29400 block of Silverado Canyon Road, the Orange County Fire Authority reports. The fire quickly spread into the brush and then exploded into a wildfire.

The fire - now at 10% containment - was pushing west towards the area of October's Silverado Fire, which burned 13,400 acres and forced tens of thousands of residents in Irvine and Lake Forest to evacuate. The blaze was initially pegged at 7,200 acres, then downgraded to 6,400 because of more accurate mapping.

Officials say the two injured U.S. Forest Service firefighters - who were hurt early Thursday afternoon - were treated by paramedics and transported to a hospital for further care. Their condition was unknown.

CBSLA reporter Kara Finnstrom described the chaotic wildfire scene Thursday morning, saying "the wind was whipping up flames, with embers flying everywhere." Large dozers and vehicles burned, triggering several loud explosions.

"The wind has shifted, and the fire is just all over the canyon, and there's the possibility I might lose my house," Silverado resident Jill Hitchcock told CBSLA Thursday.

Some residents said that because power had been shut off as a precaution against downed power lines, they had little to no cell phone service and did not receive any evacuation alerts.

"I heard screams, like, 'fire, fire, it's right here so we have to leave right now,'" resident Jerry van Wolfgang said. "I looked out the window and it was already so big."

Bond fire daytime
The Bond Fire burns vehicles and dozers in Silverado Canyon east of Irvine, Calif., on Dec. 3, 2020. (CBSLA)

Several structures have been damaged by the fire, according to the OCFA, but the exact number was not confirmed.

OCFA Capt. Thanh Nguyen told CBSLA that early in the morning hours the fire jumped Santiago Canyon Road from east to west.

"We were expecting gusts of up to 70 miles per hour in this area," Nguyen said.

"We've seen the wind change also drastically, so that's what we're telling all our personnel to be aware of that constantly changing wind," he added.

About 500 firefighters were battling the flames. Firefighting aircraft had to be grounded overnight because of the wind conditions, but water-dropping helicopters were back in the skies late Thursday morning.

"So they were able to fly for a portion of the night, but due to the increased windspeed, it was not safe for them to continue doing so," OCFA Capt. Greg Barta said.

Mandatory evacuations were issued overnight for residents in Silverado Canyon, Williams Canyon and Modjeska Canyon, according to the Orange County Fire Authority. As the blaze spread southwest, more mandatory evacuations were ordered for Foothill Ranch and the Portola Hills area west of El Toro Road and north of the 241 Freeway.

Voluntary evacuations were issued for Borrego Canyon, Baker Ranch, Live Oak Canyon, Trabuco Canyon, Rose Canyon, Cowan Heights, Lemon Heights, Valley Vista Way and Meadow Ridge Drive.

Bond Fire
The Bond Fire driven by high winds burns the hillsides west of Santiago Canyon Road near Silverado Canyon on Thursday, December 3, 2020. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

There was also a voluntary evacuation order issued in Lake Forest for the area bordered by Bake Parkway to the south, the city of Irvine border and the Musick industrial park to the west, and the 241 Freeway to the north.

Santiago Canyon Road was shut down from Jackson Ranch Road to the 241 Freeway.

A Red Cross evacuation point has been established at Santiago Canyon College in Orange. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials cannot establish an evacuation shelter, but they are providing people with vouchers to stay in hotels.

The Southland is currently in the midst of a Santa Ana wind event which has prompted red flag warnings throughout the region due to dry, blustery conditions and low humidity which have created ripe conditions for wildfires.

The Bond Fire was burning near the site of the Silverado Fire, which broke out Oct. 26 at Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads, burned 13,400 acres and forced more than 90,000 people to evacuate. Southern California Edison notified California state regulators that its equipment may have been to blame for sparking the Silverado Fire. No homes were destroyed.

The exact cause of the house fire is under investigation.

To help residents who have been affected, visit this GoFundMe page.

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