On Tuesday, the Silverado and Blue Ridge Fires in Orange County grew to over 20,000 acres combined, forcing more evacuations in the cities of Irvine, Yorba Linda, and others throughout the county.
The Silverado Fire grew to over 11,000 acres early Tuesday, forcing nearly 100,000 people to either voluntarily or involuntarily evacuate in Irvine and Lake Forest, with authorities warning of more possible evacuations for parts of Irvine and nearby Mission Viejo. As of Tuesday afternoon, the blaze is only 5% contained. Many nearby toll roads are being closed by the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), with temporary evacuation points being set up in Mission Viejo.
“This is a tough fire,” said OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy. “We’re experiencing very high winds, very low humidities. This is a very hazardous job.”
More than 750 firefighters
10-15 mph winds with ridge top gusts reaching 35 mph
Residents under evacuation order:
6,000 Lake Forest
Footage taken at Crean Lutheran HS and La Perla in Foothill Ranch pic.twitter.com/t2SbCvmaSo
— OCFA PIO (@OCFA_PIO) October 27, 2020
Meanwhile, the nearby Blue Ridge Fire has quickly grown since sparking up Monday afternoon. As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire has exploded to 15,200 acres, with well over 10,000 people now being evacuated from the cities of Yorba Linda and Chino Valley. As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire is 0% contained.
Yorba Linda: 2,500 homes
Chino Hills: 5,958 homes
Yorba Linda: 10
Chino Valley: 0
No injuries to fire personnel and no injuries reported by community members. pic.twitter.com/beLdiLh3u4
— OCFA PIO (@OCFA_PIO) October 27, 2020
In addition to the quickly growing political concerns in the area, with tens of thousands of residents now possibly not being able to vote in numerous tight state and local elections in the county, area residents want to know how exactly the fires started. Currently, the Blue Ridge Fire is under investigation, but preliminary findings in the Silverado Fire have found that the Southern California Edison utility company may be responsible. According to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), a support “lashing” wire may have hit a 12,000 volt line, causing sparks to fall on dry brush below.
Southern California Edison responded to early reports yesterday by shutting off power in areas across five counties due to high winds and wildfire concerns, with many of the 38,000 affected homes being in Orange County. By early Tuesday morning the number was down to 16,500 homes.
Growing concerns over more unmaintained power lines sparking wildfires
James Musson, a former utility company lineman who worked in California, Oregon, and Texas and currently a safety consultant, told the Globe that utility companies starting blazes is now becoming a common theme in California.
“We like looking at the odd ones,” said Masson. “There was the El Dorado Fire earlier this year caused by a gender reveal party or the wildfire up north right now caused by a cigarette butt.”
“But we have been seeing more and more of these fires being the fault of power companies. This only came to the publics attention, widespread attention that is, through the Paradise Fire, where a PG&E line had not been maintained and sparked during dry conditions. And we’ve seen it many times this year, with Silverado being likely now. You can blame high winds all you want, but utility lines were designed to withstand weather extremes, be it temperature or wind or whatever.”
“People are just blaming climate change on the growth of wildfires. And while it is certainly a factor, both state and federal agencies have found that a lot of power and utility lines are not being maintained properly. PG&E kind of shocked California during the Paradise investigation by putting off inspections for years.”
“This is the real reason why we’ve seen such a growth in the number of wildfires in recent years. Yes, climate change, dry weather, wind, all of that plays a huge part. But if the lines were maintained we wouldn’t see all of these sprouting up.”
“It’s what we get asked the most, since a lot of news outlets never report the cause. The majority of the time it will be a problem with an old utility line or old utility equipment. You can’t just build them and let them be for a few decades. You need to check and maintain them. We’ve just been lazy on the follow through, and now we’re paying for it. Silverado is likely just the latest.”
More evacuation orders are likely on Tuesday as winds have continued to the fan the flames on both Orange County fires.
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