Article last updated at 3:21 p.m.
Evacuation zones for the rapidly-growing Bond Fire were expanded to thousands of residents in communities near Orange County’s inland canyons, as the county’s third major wildfire of the season burns amid dry Santa Ana winds.
Two firefighters were injured while fighting the blaze and were taken to the hospital, the Orange County Fire Authority reported Thursday afternoon.
Officials announced mandatory evacuations mid-Thursday morning in the north Lake Forest communities of Portola Hills and Borrego Canyon, and evacuation warnings in nearby communities, including Trabuco Canyon.
Voluntary evacuation warnings also were issued for the North Tustin communities of Lemon Heights and Cowan Heights, as well as the northern Irvine neighborhood of Orchard Hills. That’s in addition to existing evacuation orders in the canyon communities of Silverado and Modjeska Canyon.
The Bond Fire has burned 7,200 acres with 0% containment as of noon, according to the Orange County Fire Authority. Multiple buildings were reported to have burned, which hundreds of firefighters have been battling.
As of early Thursday afternoon, the fire was actively burning along Santiago Canyon Road near Irvine Lake, said Capt. Thanh Nguyen, public information officer for the Fire Authority.
Which route the fire takes – and how big it gets – will depend largely on weather conditions, including wind behavior and possible drops in relative humidity, officials said.
“As long as the wind is blowing it’s going to pose a huge challenge for us,” Nguyen said.
“You have a combination of things that are contributing to fire behavior,” he added, including south facing parts of the fire that face the sun and get “preheated.”
“If you’re in the fire area or down range from it, we ask that everybody is prepared for evacuation if needed,” Nguyen said.
The fire started around 10:15 p.m. Wednesday night, fully engulfing a home and spreading into the brush before expanding rapidly overnight amid high winds, according to the Fire Authority.
“We have received reports that there may be multiple structures damaged from the fire. We are in the process of verifying the number involved and the extent of damage,” Orange County Fire Authority officials said via Twitter Thursday morning.
The OC Animal Care shelter in Tustin is accepting dogs, cats and other small pets from the evacuation areas, while horses and other large animals from mandatory evacuation zones can be brought to the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, officials said in a news release.
It’s the second time in two months that Orange County residents were being urged to evacuate the inland canyons and nearby communities as a quickly-growing wildfire rages in the canyons.
This is one of several wildfires reported across Southern California overnight, with reported fires near Camp Pendleton, Corona and the Angeles National Forest. Orange County was under a red flag warning issued yesterday and set to cover through Saturday due to high winds, which officials have said is helping push the spread of the Bond Fire.
Silverado Canyon is under mandatory evacuation, along with portions of Portola Hills and Foothill Ranch west of El Toro and north of the 241 freeway, according to notices sent out by the Orange County Fire Authority.
Officials are warning Lake Forest residents they may need to evacuate soon, but no orders have been put out yet.
The Irvine Police Dept. posted on Twitter that they do not believe the city will have to evacuate, due to a buffer zone surrounding the city after the burnout from the Silverado Fire in October, but that the city will be affected by the smoke.
The Saddleback Valley Unified School District also announced that Foothill Ranch Elementary, Portola Hills Elementary and Trabuco Elementary would be closed for in person and online learning today, and posted another dozen elementary and secondary schools that would be only running distance learning today.
For the live evacuation map posted by the OC Sheriffs’ Dept., click here.
Residents in the area scrambled to evacuate in the early hours of the morning, with some reports on social media that their electricity had failed or was shut off.
“I live one street over from bond. No one in the community had power or phone service so people were going around banging on doors to wake people up,” one resident said on Twitter. “Everything happened really fast. Started from a house fire and spread.”
Fire officials said there’s no congregate shelter due to the coronavirus pandemic, amid a skyrocketing surge in cases and hospitalizations in Orange County.
“You’re strongly encouraged to seek safety with family/friends or in a hotel,” the OCFA posted on their Twitter page. “Due to COVID-19, no congregate shelter is offered. A temporary OC Red Cross evacuation point is at 8405 E. Chapman Ave, Orange. Info and restrooms available.”
The OCFA activated their hotline for evacuating residents early this morning, at 714-628-7085.
The OCFA did not return requests for comment.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.