Story at a glance
- More than 70,000 Southern California residents were ordered to evacuate this week due to new and fast wildfires.
- Strong Santa Ana winds with speeds of more than 80 mph threaten to propagate the flames.
Intense flames are scorching Southern California this week, critically injuring two firefighters and forcing tens of thousands to evacuate, The Los Ángeles Times reports.
Strong gusts of wind have enabled the largest blaze, the Silverado fire, to spread to more than 7,200 acres near Santiago Canyon, its point of origin, and Silverado Canyon roads.
As Santa Ana winds pushed flames to the residential areas of Irvine and Lake Forest, more than 70,000 people were ordered to evacuate as of Monday evening.
Wind speeds vary depending on the region, but strong gusts of 80 mph were recorded.
In a situation update, Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said two firefighters were injured, suffering second and third degree burns on more than half of their bodies.
Both firefighters are hospitalized and intubated.
“This is tough for me, tough for all my firefighters and certainly for the families of my two injured firefighters,” Fennessy told the press, explaining that they are “gravely injured.”
The strong Santa Ana winds helped fuel another fire, starting the Blue Ridge Fire in the Santa Ana Canyon. It spread quickly to Yorba Linda, again prompting evacuations of around 20,000 residents.
By late Monday, the Blue Ridge Fire ravaged 6,600 acres, damaging at least one home.
A red flag warning was issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) as blustery winds combed already dry and hot weather conditions, further exacerbating conditions for wildfires.
The NWS reported that the conditions have resulted in “the most dangerous fire weather conditions we have seen since October 2019.”
“We have very strong winds and very low humidities, and that’s causing ideal conditions for a very strong Santa Ana event with high fire danger,” David Sweet, a NWS meteorologist told the Times. “This is very typical for this time of year, but this one is very strong.”
The conditions have prompted power companies like Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) as well as Edison to shut off power for some regions experiencing severe weather in an attempt to prevent power lines from becoming damaged and sparking another fire.
Roughly 21,860 Edison customers were without power by Monday afternoon, primarily in San Bernardino County, according to the Times. Another 105,000 customers are under consideration for shutoffs.
These critical weather conditions span across California, with PG&E shutting off power for more than 300,000 customers in Northern California counties as of yesterday.