Silverado Fire rages through Orange County

FIRE ERUPTS: Fire hotspot in Lake Forest at the end of Bake Pkwy. Nathan Melcher/Triton Times

By Nathan Melcher  | Computer Design Editor

November 1, 2020

On October 26, 2020 at 6:52 am, a wildfire broke out in the Silverado area of California. Raging winds and lack of easy accessibility allowed the fire to grow to 13,354 acres as of October 28th. Over 1,200 personnel from multiple agencies are currently assigned to the fire.

ADDRESSING THE MEDIA : Jeff Veik announcing that CalFire will enter Unified Command with OCFA. Nathan Melcher/Triton Times

On the evening of October 27, OCFA entered unified command with CalFire Incident Management Team 6. The OCFA Chief, Brian Fennessy, said the Orange County Fire Authority could handle one large wild land fire. However, the ignition of the Blue Ridge fire, just on the other side of the mountain range, meant that OCFA could no longer handle both incidents. At this point, no CalFire units have been assigned to the fire; all personnel attending to the disaster are from OCFA and surrounding agencies. CalFire Incident Commander Jeff Veik said in a press conference on Tuesday that this is “One team, One fight” in regards to the announcement for the move to unified command. Many agencies are now involved, including OCFA, Fullerton/Brea Fire, Santa Barbara Fire, and Anaheim Fire Rescue. These additional resources are standing by at the Incident Command Post, located near the OC Great Park in Irvine.

The ignition of the wildfire has incited some fear and worry into students as SCHS. “If that canyon behind us ignites, we’re in trouble,” sophomore Davis Rail said. His fear is valid, as the area behind his home in Talega is an unattended reserve, with plentiful long grass that is fuel just waiting to be burned.

The grass is dry and will be difficult to access, making the theoretical fire fight more difficult. “My grandparents live along a large area of brush,” junior Gavin Stay said. “It is concerning knowing that one small spark could ignite a fire at any time.”

On the first day of the fire, aerial fire fighting attacks were grounded due to strong winds gusting up to 80 mph. Over 30 hand crews were deployed in an attempt to contain the fire. On the morning of the second day, the winds calmed down, allowing for aerial firefighting to continue. Helicopters and Fixed Wing aircraft have been working around the clock to try and stop the spread of the fire. A CH-47 Chinook, the world’s largest helitanker, carrying 3,000 gallons of water has been deployed in order to help combat the fire. The Chinook is the only aircraft attacking the fire at night.

REFILLING: CH-47 Chinook going to get more water to fight the fire. Nathan Melcher/Triton Times

Many residents of Silverado and surrounding areas in Orange County were evacuated and forced to relocate over night while fire crews got a grip on the fire. Over 70,000 structures are threatened by this fire, though currently none have been damaged thanks to the tireless efforts of the firefighters.

Sadly, two hand crew firefighters were seriously burned and are still in the hospital with second and third degree burns. In the Tuesday press conference, Chief Fennessy choked up when talking about the injured men. He had personally hired both of them less than one year ago, and he had grown close to their families. Three other firefighters have been injured by the fire, but not to the extent of hospitalization. Their families have asked for everyone to keep these men in their thoughts and prayers and to wish for a speedy recovery.                                                                                                                   

Chief Fennessy said that the cause of the fire is “still under investigation” and has requested that a Serious Incident Investigation team be brought in from the state.

UPDATE 10/28

STANDBY: CalFire crews ready to be deployed at the ICP. Nathan Melcher/Triton Times

The fire has now grown to 13,390 acres and has now reached 32% containment. The fire is still a threat and crews and still working around the clock to fully contain the fire. CalFire estimated that the fire will be at 100% containment by 11/10.

All evacuation orders have been lifted in Irvine & Orange County, while most have been lifted in Lake Forest with only Zones 3 & 4 still under mandatory evacuation. 15 additional bull dozers have been assigned in order to create fire breaks, and 22 hand crews have been removed. Aerial firefighting has continued due to low wind speeds.

UPDATE 10/29 7 am

Containment is up to 40%. There are no more firefighter injuries to report. A full fire perimeter has been created, and crews are working to mop up hotspots and continue to battle the fire. Only 1,500 structures are threatened at this time.

UPDATE 10/29 11:50 am

All evacuation orders have been lifted at this time. Residents are now allowed back into their homes and will be met with Sheriff and Police checkpoints in order to ensure that only residents re-enter these areas. Crews are still working in these areas, and people repopulating should use caution and stay clear of fire crews.

UPDATE 10/29 7:00 pm

Containment is at 51%, and there are 1,500 structures still threatened. Five structures have been damaged with one being fully destroyed. 50+ agencies are still working around the clock in order to try and fully contain the fire. No civilians have been injured during the fire. Cause is still under investigation.

AERIAL FIRE FIGHT: OCFA Helicopter flying over the ICP on its way to refill its tank. Nathan Melcher/Triton Times

UPDATE 10/30 7:00 am

The fire has spread to 13,400 acres, with containment up to 63%. It is still estimated that 100% containment will be achieved on 11/10. Over 1,300 firefighter and administrative personnel are still working around the clock in order to fully contain the fire. All evacuation orders are still lifted and residents are repopulating the zones.

UPDATE 10/30 7:00 pm

More accurate mapping has decreased the size of the fire to 12,500 acres. Containment is up to 70% with 900+ personnel working to fully contain the fire. CalFire is still in unified command with OCFA . Nine structures have been damaged with three additional structures being fully destroyed. Cause of fire is still under investigation.
UPDATE 10/31 7:00 am

Firefighters have been working around the clock to contain the fire and have currently reached 76% containment. Fire still stands at approximately 12,500 acres. A total of nine structures have been damaged and no more firefighters have been injured. 950+ personnel are still working on the fire.

UPDATE 10/31 7:00 pm

Containment up to 79%. Nothing else to note at this time.

UPDATE 11/1 7:00 am

Crew size is below 900 at this time. Fire containment is at 82%; expected containment is still 11/10/2020. Nothing new to report.

UPDATE 11/1 7:00 pm

Toll roads remain closed. Containment at 88%; acreage corrected to 12,466. Crews are still working to strengthen the fire line and patrol the perimeter of the fire.

UPDATE 11/2 7:00 am

Crews have contained the fire to 93% with about 750 personnel on the fire. All road closures have been lifted, but residents and drivers are urged to use caution as crews are still working in the area.

UPDATE 11/2 7:00 pm

No new change from this morning. It appears that CalFire and OCFA may be exiting unified command, however this is not confirmed. CalFire Incident Management Team 6 will no longer provide updates on the fire.

UPDATE 11/3 7:00 pm

Fire is 98% contained with a total of 14 structures being damaged or destroyed. The remaining crew, approximate 750 men and women, will remain on the fire until it is 100% contained and all necessary clean up is done.

FINAL UPDATE 11/7 7:00 am

The fire is 100% contained at this time, final acreage is recorded at 12,466. A total of nine structures were damaged with an additional five fully destroyed. Two OCFA fire fighters were critically injured and are still in the hospital. Over 130 units were dispatched by OCFA to extinguish the fire; many additional units from surrounding agencies also were there to assist. Cause is still under investigation.

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