Cora Angeles parked her car near a gas station at the foot of her Corona hillside neighborhood. With her granddaughter by her side, she said a prayer.
“Put out the fire, Lord,” the 66-year-old said, through tears. “Please help us.”
Just an hour earlier, she was watching Monday afternoon as flames lit up a mountain ridge in the distance. The flames looked far away from her home. But soon after, the winds shifted and they crept closer.
Before she knew it, there was a knock at her door.
“You gotta go,” a police officer told her. “You gotta go to Corona High School.”
Angeles was among as many as 1,500 Corona residents forced to evacuate as the fast-moving Canyon fire exploded to 2,000 acres in the Santa Ana Mountains near the Anaheim-Corona border, threatening homes. Officials said evacuation orders will remain in effect overnight as helicopters continue to drop water on the blaze. On Tuesday, firefighters faced another day of heat into the 90s and wind gusts of up to 30 mph.
Late Monday, officials said the blaze had damaged one home in the Dominguez Ranch area and was only 5% contained. An unrelated big rig fire on the 91 Freeway exacerbated traffic delays in the area.
Within 20 minutes of being ordered to evacuate, Angeles had gathered her important documents and shoved some clothes into a container. Then, with her 12-year-old granddaughter, she fled, accidentally leaving the pile of clothes — and valuables she couldn’t think fast enough to pack — behind.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “At least we know we’re going to be alive because we got out of there in time.”
Authorities ordered residents of all homes south of Green River Road from the 91 Freeway to Trudy Lane, including the Orchard Glen Tract, to leave as more than 300 firefighters trudged through steep, rugged terrain to battle the blaze.
As temperatures cooled and humidity rose Monday night, officials saw a “great opportunity to do some perimeter control” around the fire, said Capt. Steve Concialdi with the Orange County Fire Authority.
By 11 p.m., about 40 residents had gathered at an evacuation center opened at Corona High School. Officials announced that four schools — Cesar Chavez Academy and Adams, Coronita and Prado View elementary schools — will be closed Tuesday, citing poor air quality, active evacuations and road closures.
Green River Road was closed at Palisades Drive, Serfas Club Drive and Paseo Grande. Residents not affected by evacuations may enter with ID.
The following roads were also closed to incoming traffic: Dominguez Ranch Road, Nicholas Place, Canyon Crest Drive, Boulder Drive, Suncrest Drive, Ridgeline Drive (south of Green River), Serfas Club (south of Green River), Montana Ranch Road, Del Mar Way and Trudy Way.
Several helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were dropping water on the fire, and bulldozers were being used to stop its advance, said Sgt. Daron Wyatt, a spokesman for the Anaheim police and fire departments.
The Orange County Fire Authority posted videos to Twitter that showed the blaze spewing thick plumes of black smoke over the hillside.
Wyatt said the blaze began about 1 p.m. The fire had spread into a “small section” of Chino Hills State Park about 3 p.m., he said.
Traffic on the 91 Freeway had been “impacted heavily” by the blaze, Wyatt said. Caltrans said on Twitter that it had closed several lanes on the freeway and that traffic was backed up about seven miles during peak commute hours.
Rescue crews had not reported any injuries. The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.
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4 a.m.: Updated with firefight overnight.
11:30 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect that evacuations will remain in effect overnight.
10:25 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect that one home was damaged and a big rig was burned.
9:20 p.m.: This article was updated with updated acreage and containment numbers.
8:55 p.m.: This article was updated with road closures and planned school closures.
8:25 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect the site of the evacuations in the headline and an interview with an evacuee.
7:35 p.m.: This article was updated with new information about evacuation orders.
6:50 p.m.: This article was updated with new acreage numbers.
6:40 p.m.: This article was updated with new acreage numbers and evacuation orders.
3:55 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information from fire officials.
This article first published at 3:15 p.m.