Southern California fire doubles in size and sends two firefighters to hospital with critical injuries

The men suffered second- and third-degree burns while battling the Silverado Fire near Irvine, Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy told reporters.

The fire doubled in size, according to the fire authority, growing to 4,000 acres with no containment.

The blaze jumped Highway 241, the agency’s public information officer said on Twitter. About 20,000 homes were evacuated and 500 personnel were battling the flames.

Fennessy visited the injured firefighters in the emergency room, but was unable to talk with the firefighters, as each is intubated.

“They were not in a position where they could speak with me,” Fennessy said. “Our firefighters are some of the bravest in the world. This is a very hazardous job.”

The unidentified men, ages 26 and 31, are part of Orange County Fire Authority’s ground crew. The team uses hand tools to stop wildfire flames from progressing, much like hotshots.

College cancels campus activities

The University of California, Irvine suspended all campus operations due to hazardous smoke and ash, university officials announced. Only essential employees — including those who work in housing and dining — should report to campus. All other employees were urged to stay or return home.

The fire is being driven by strong, erratic winds estimated to be about 20-30 miles per hour, with gusts of 60-70 mph.

The inferno began as a vegetation fire at about 6:47 a.m. local time Monday in the area of Santiago Canyon Road and Silverado Canyon Road, according to the city of Irvine.
The city of Irvine issued an immediate evacuation order for about 60,000 residents as the fire rapidly spread.

“The fire started in Silverado Canyon, and helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are on the way,” Mayor Christina Shea said in a news release. “The wind is making it move very quickly.”

Videos posted by the authority show high winds whipping the flames into a frenzy in burned-out areas.

Fennessy said earlier the blaze was a “major fire” and was moving southwest at a quick pace.

“Our priority right now is getting people evacuated and out of the path of the fire,” he said.

Irvine listed six community centers where care and reception facilities were set up; as of Monday afternoon, three were listed as full.

Another fire — dubbed the Green Fire — broke out northeast of the Silverado Fire in Orange County hills, between Yorba and Corona.

The Silverado Fire comes as the state and region are under major fire risks from hot, dry weather. More than 33 million people are under red flag warnings in California and the Southwest, including San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

In particular, extreme level 3 of 3 fire conditions are in place across the mountains outside of Los Angeles, where wind gusts over hurricane force are possible.

Cal Fire said Sunday that more than 5,000 firefighters are working to fully contain 20 wildfires in the state in what has already been a historic fire season across the western US.

Dry conditions, low humidity and windy weather have prompted power shutoffs and pleas for preparedness as the fire season continues in California.

The National Weather Service said the winds in LA and Ventura counties could bring gusts up to 80 mph in the mountain areas and warned of possible power outages, fire conditions and possible delays at local airports.

Utility Southern California Edison implemented a public safety power shutoff (PSPS) at 7:30 a.m. Monday to 3,677 customers in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. Another 123,000 customers are under consideration for the PSPS as Santa Ana winds blow through the area.

SCE has 5 million customers total and it says power will be restored to affected accounts within 24 hours after the wind event is over.

CNN’s Steve Almasy and Dave Hennen contributed to this report.

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