IRVINE, Calif. -- Thousands of Irvine residents evacuated due to the Silverado Fire were returning home Wednesday as firefighters worked to contain the blaze, which has blackened at least 13,354 acres and is 25% contained.
Evacuations were lifted throughout the entire city of Irvine as of Wednesday afternoon. Many of them were also lifted in Lake Forest. Evacuations remained in place in the central and eastern areas of the fire around Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. A voluntary evacuation warning was in place for the areas around Live Oak Canyon Road to the east of Portola Hills.
The repopulation was a "testament to the hard work of all firefighters on the ground and in the air that have worked hard the past two days to protect life and property,'' Concialdi said, adding that no homes have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the Silverado Fire.
At its height, about 70,000 people were under evacuation orders in Irvine and another 9,500 evacuated in Lake Forest, according to the OCFA and Lake Forest officials. It was unclear how many residents remained evacuated.
No structures were confirmed lost, according to officials.
The fire was first reported just after 6:45 a.m. Monday at 10 acres in size in the area of Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads, according to OCFA.
By 9 a.m. Monday, mandatory evacuations were ordered for residents in the Orchard Hills neighborhood. The established evacuation zone is for homes north of Irvine Boulevard from Bake Parkway to Jamboree Road.
Shortly before 2 p.m. Monday, additional evacuation orders were issued for homes south of Irvine Boulevard to Trabuco Road and from Jeffrey Road east to Portola High School.
"This fire is going to continue to cross and encroach upon the homes in multiple areas. So, our priority right now is getting people evacuated and out of the path of the fire," said OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy, who stressed that residents should immediately heed evacuation orders without delay.
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Evacuation orders have been issued for the Jackson Ranch and Williams Canyon area, the OCFA said Tuesday morning. Silverado, Modjeska, and Trabuco Canyons along Live Oak Canyon are under evacuation warning, a spokesperson for the agency said.
At 6:40 a.m Tuesday,. the OCFA announced an evacuation warning for Mission Viejo in the areas of El Toro Road to the north, Marguerite Parkway to the west, Upper Oso Reservoir to the east, and Los Alisos Boulevard to the south.
Southern California Edison indicated its equipment is under investigation as a possible source of the Silverado Fire.
The company submitted paperwork to the California Public Utilities Commission which stated:
"Summary: SCE submits this report as it may involve an event that meets the subject of significant public attention or media coverage reporting requirement. 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."
Tuesday morning, the Orange County Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency and was asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state emergency that would help send more resources to assist. The county also asked Newsom to seek federal assistance with a presidential emergency declaration.
At least 500 fire personnel rapidly launched an aggressive fight against the flames as winds caused the blaze to move with a "moderate rate of spread," eventually jumping the 241 toll road and forcing people from their homes, officials said.
The fire fight, which includes ground and air units, has been focused primarily on the Foothill Ranch community -- north of the 241.
"It's a little scary -- you look out your front window and you see a wall of fire," resident Rick Kaylar said.
Two hand crew firefighters, ages 26 and 31, both suffered serious burns, Fennessy announced during a press conference Monday afternoon.
Three additional firefighters suffered minor injuries, were treated at a hospital and released.
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The firefighters have 65% and 50% burns on their bodies, respectively, both second- and third-degree burns. Both are being treated at the Orange County Global Medical Center and are intubated in the ICU.
Fennessy said he visited with the injured firefighters and their families at the hospital Tuesday morning. He knows them both personally, having been the person who hired them.
"It's tough for any firefighter, certainly any fire chief, to feel this helpless when you've got part of our fire family fighting for their lives," Fennessy said. "I'm confident that they're going to do all they can to fight through this. It's just who they are."
He said information will soon be made available about ways the public can contribute to help the injured firefighters.
A care and reception center has been set up at El Toro High School at 25255 Toledo Way for those in Lake Forest impacted by the mandatory evacuation order.
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