Strong gusts of wind set fire to a fire in the canyons of Southern California in early Thursday. It is one of the flames that burned near homes and forced residents to flee amid increased fire risk in much of the region, prompting utilities to cut off electricity to hundreds of thousands.
The biggest flame in Silver County Canyon, Orange County, began late Wednesday when a home fire broke out that quickly spread to the dry brush as gusts exceeded 70 mph (113 mph).
Its size exploded all night, and as the sun came up, huge flue gas was visible for miles.
Firefighters fought on steep terrain amid the unpredictable winds of Santa Ana. Orange County Fire Department captain Thanh Nguyen said the crew scrambled to prevent the flames leaping from the main roads.
“We’ve seen the wind change drastically, too, so we tell all our employees to be aware of it – that ever-changing wind,” CBS told LA TV.
Evacuations were ordered around several canyons and foothills near the town of Lake Forest, and residents of other nearby areas were told they were ready to get out.
It was not possible to know immediately how many people were involved in the 6-square-kilometer (16-square-kilometer) gathering, or if any of them were injured at home. The fire was not suppressed.
Several studies have linked major fires in America to climate change resulting from the burning of coal, oil and gas. Scientists say climate change has made California much drier, meaning trees and other plants are more flammable.
The Bond Fire, about 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles, burns near the same area of the October Silverado Fire that forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
A car is heading north to avoid the Bond Fire when it crosses Santiago Canyon Road near Silverado Canyon on Thursday, December 3, 2020.
Leonard Ortiz | Getty Images
Ryan Kayrell, with his wife and two young children, escaped the October fire. But the family stayed at their home in the Foothill Ranch community on Thursday morning, despite being in a very smoky, mandatory evacuation zone. The family’s bags were packed together waiting to see the direction the flames were moving, Kayrell said.
“Much of the hillside, right behind my house, has already burned, so we hope it’s a buffer. Which doesn’t mean there’s no danger. The problem is that embers can fly into the area,” Kayrell said. “If there are fire trucks on our street, we’ll go.”
The new flames exploded as Southern California utilities reduced tens of thousands of customers to avoid the risk of fires during the infamous Santa Anas.
Due to the low humidity, the bone-dry brush and the wind, the red flag warnings until Saturday are valid for extreme fire hazards, the National Meteorological Service said.
As a precautionary measure, utilities in the residential region on Wednesday began cutting power supplies to prevent gusts of wind to blow wooden limbs into electrical equipment and not to cut electrical wires that have triggered devastating fires in recent years.
Edison, Southern California, cut power to about 15,000 homes and businesses until late at night, and considered unplugging lines in seven counties to serve about 271,000 customers throughout the windy period, which could last until Saturday.
This was one of the biggest precautionary power outages.
San Diego Gas & Electric pulled the plug at about 24,000 customers by Wednesday night, with another 73,000 in the crosshairs.
“We acknowledge that the power outage is disturbing and we sincerely thank our customers for their patience and understanding,” the utility said.
An evacuation was ordered when a small wildfire broke out near the rural community of Nuevo in Riverside County, about 80 miles (80 kilometers) east of the Bond Fire.
And in the south, tiny flames in San Diego County threatened about 200 homes and forced them to evacuate before firefighters managed to curb 50 percent of it. At least one structure was destroyed and six others were damaged, according to 10 News San Diego.
California has already experienced its worst year because of the fires. More than 6,500 square miles (16,835 square miles) were scorched, which is larger than the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island. At least 31 people were killed, 10,500 houses and other buildings were damaged or destroyed.
The latest fire threat occurs when drought sinks deeper into much of California. In practice, Northern California has a severe or extreme drought, while Southern California is almost entirely abnormally dry or worse.