Mandatory evacuations still in effect as decreasing winds help slow Bond fire in O.C.
Firefighters on Friday were continuing to battle a wind-whipped wildfire that exploded in Orange County after igniting late Wednesday.
The Bond fire began as a “fully engulfed house fire” in the 29000 block of Silverado Canyon Road, according to Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy.
Gusty Santa Ana winds pushed flames into surrounding hillsides, where they met bone-dry vegetation that fueled the fire’s rapid growth.
The Bond fire erupted overnight in Orange County in dry brush and prompted evacuations in mountain communities amid high winds.
At least two firefighters were injured, and “a number of houses were damaged, potentially destroyed,” Fennessey said during a news conference Thursday. The number of damaged homes is still being assessed.
The injured firefighters are “doing OK” and were released from the hospital, officials said Friday.
Officials initially said the fire had burned through 7,200 acres but later downgraded that number by nearly 1,000 acres after more accurate mapping. As of Friday morning, the blaze had burned 6,400 acres and was 10% contained, according to OCFA Capt. Thanh Nguyen.
“Firefighters last night were able to take advantage of the wind dying down, so that gave us an opportunity,” Nguyen said. “Their main focus last night was to get all the hot spots they could find and continue to improve the fire line and close it up. I suspect we’re going to see some number changes as far as containment goes today.”
About 25,000 residents were evacuated Thursday as the fire spread.
Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for Modjeska Canyon, Williams Canyon, Silverado Canyon and Black Star and Baker canyons, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Several areas remain under voluntary evacuation warnings as well.
Evacuation orders have been lifted in Lake Forest. Residents can check the latest evacuation information here.
Previous mandatory evacuation zones will remain under warnings through at least Saturday due to red flag warnings indicating fire weather conditions, according to the fire authority.
Nguyen said more than 500 firefighters from 30 agencies were on the fire lines Friday, including 11 helicopters.
“We’re still going to be hitting it hard,” he said. “Our focus is going to be on tightening the line.”
All roads that had been closed by the blaze were reopened by 8 p.m. Thursday, except for Santiago Canyon Road, the fire authority said on Twitter.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District said the Bond fire, and the nearby Airport fire in Riverside County, were contributing to heavy smoke and very unhealthy air quality throughout Orange County and into the Long Beach area.
Smoke advisories are in effect for areas near the fires through Friday, and residents are advised to limit time outside and avoid vigorous physical activity, the agency said.
In October, the Silverado fire burned through 13,400 acres in nearly the same terrain where the Bond fire is now burning — but Nguyen said there is still plenty of brush to burn because the two blazes were on opposite sides of Santiago Canyon Road.
The National Weather Service said the extreme wind gusts that helped fuel the fire Thursday would begin to die down Friday, although the threat of dangerous weather is not gone. Fire weather warnings remain in effect through Saturday, with humidity hovering in the single digits.
“Any fire start will grow rapidly, with long-range spotting possible,” the agency said.
Orange County fire crews will take advantage of decreasing wind speeds Friday to continue strengthening containment lines, Nguyen said, but the work is a race against the clock.
“The big challenge for us,” Nguyen said, “is that we’ve only got a few days before the anticipated next round of Santa Ana wind shows up next week.”
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