NEAR IRVINE (CBSLA) -- Two Orange County firefighters were critically injured Monday in a fast-moving wildfire in Santiago Canyon near Irvine as more than 90,000 people were forced to evacuate amid powerful Santa Ana winds.
The Orange County Fire Authority Handcrew members were hurt around 12:15 p.m. while battling the Silverado Fire, officials said. Both of the unidentified firefighters - aged 26 and 31 - were covered in second and third-degree burns and were on ventilators.
The Silverado Fire was reported at 6:47 a.m. in the area of Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads on the edge of Limestone Canyon Regional Park. Within about three hours it had exploded to 2,000 acres.
As of Monday evening, the fire stood at 7,200 acres and zero containment, according to Fire Chief Brian Fennessy.
The area is located east of Tustin and northeast of Lake Forest. Homes were threatened, although there were no reports that any structures had been damaged or destroyed.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for more than 90,000 residents in several communities, the Orange County Fire Authority reported.
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The fire jumped the 241 Freeway from east to west, shutting down the freeway between Santiago Canyon Road and the 133 Freeway.
Several schools were evacuated including Northwood High and Portola Springs, Eastwood, Stonegate, Loma Ridge, Canyon View and Santiago Hills elementary schools. UC Irvine also canceled all campus operations at around noon due to the heavy smoke.
"The wind is crazy, my family has been through it in Malibu," evacuee Ruby Johnson told CBSLA. "It's a crazy thing, never had to experience it ourselves. You can replace clothes and things, but you can't replace your lives. I've got all the pictures and valuables, so we're ready to go."
Wind gusts in the area were reaching up to 70 miles per hour. OCFA and CAL Fire crews were battling the fire on the ground and in the air with the assistance of several other agencies.
"Our firefighters are some of the bravest if not the bravest in the world," said OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy. "This is a very hazardous job."
A Red Flag Warning is in effect for much of the Southland through Tuesday night due to Santa Ana winds, dry conditions and low humidity.
Because of the confluence of variables, the National Weather Service reports the region is seeing the most dangerous wildfire conditions since October of 2019, when the Saddleridge, Tick, Getty, Easy and Maria fires destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands of people to flee in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
O.C. residents who have not yet signed up to receive emergency alerts are encouraged to do so at alertoc.org.
The cause of the Silverado Fire has not yet been determined, but Southern California Edison sent a notice to the California Public Utilities Commission Monday which read:
"Preliminary information reflects SCE overhead electrical facilities are located in the origin area of the Silverado Fire. We have no indication of any circuit activity prior to the report time of the fire, nor downed overhead primary conductors in the origin area. However, it appears that a lashing wire that was attached to an underbuilt telecommunication line may have contact SCE's overhead primary conductor which may have resulted in the ignition of the fire. The investigation is ongoing."
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