Exacerbated by wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour and extremely dry conditions, a fast-moving wildfire spread to more than 6,000 acres in Southern California on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of 25,000 residents, officials said.
Two firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries on Thursday while trying to contain the Bond fire, which had begun the previous night in the Santa Ana Mountains of Orange County, southeast of Los Angeles, the authorities said.
The mountains share the name of the Santa Ana winds, hot winds from the desert that descend on the Pacific Coast area around Los Angeles and often fuel wildfires, according to the National Weather Service. Fire officials attributed the spread of the Bond fire to the winds.
The blaze began as a house fire in Silverado, about 50 miles from Los Angeles, and quickly spread to the surrounding area, fire officials said. The cause was under investigation.
As of 3 p.m. on Thursday, about 25,000 people had been evacuated in several communities northeast of Irvine, according to emergency responders. Because of more accurate mapping, the size of the Bond fire was adjusted to 6,400 from 7,200 acres by early Friday morning, officials said, adding that the fire was 10 percent contained.
“We know that a number of houses have been damaged, potentially destroyed,” Brian Fennessy, the Orange County Fire Authority chief, said during an afternoon news conference.
Chief Fennessy said that more than 500 firefighters were battling the flames and that more than 30 agencies were involved in the effort, which included fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
He urged residents of the affected communities, some of which were still reeling from a wildfire in October, to use their common sense when deciding whether to evacuate.
“You don’t have to wait for us to call,” Chief Fennessy said. “If there’s any doubt please evacuate.”
Emergency responders said that downed power lines and utility poles posed dangers to residents in the area.
At the same news conference, Sheriff Don Barnes of Orange County warned residents that they should have their medications and other necessities ready to go in case they had to evacuate.
“When you need to go, it’s go then,” Sheriff Barnes said.
Greta Gustafson, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Orange County, said on Thursday that the organization had provided hotel rooms to 170 evacuees. The Red Cross had set up a temporary evacuation point at a local high school, she said.
The Bond fire is not far from where two firefighters were critically injured in October during efforts to contain the Silverado fire, which burned more than 12,000 acres and forced the evacuation of 130,000 people.
A U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said on Thursday that the injuries sustained by the firefighters in the Bond fire were not life-threatening.
Mohadeseh Sadollahi, 47, the owner of Bellaria Coffee House in Foothill Ranch, a community south of the fire that had been ordered to evacuate, said that the roads had been closed.
“They can’t walk, they cannot drive,” she said of residents. “People can’t get anything. Besides Covid-19, this adds on top of it.”
Ms. Sadollahi said she had lost five days of business because of the Silverado fire in October, which had compounded the economic effects of the pandemic.
“Because of the fire, the quality of the air is very bad,” she said. “People can’t sit outside, and they can’t sit inside. As a small-business owner paying all my bills and rent, I can’t fix it very easily.”
Chary Chaisawasdi, 45, an employee at Twohubs Cycling Boutique in Foothill Ranch, said on Thursday that the area was empty.
“It was pretty much a ghost town,” he said. “I didn’t realize that the fire was that bad.”
He said he was unfazed by the latest wildfire.
“For us, this is routine, every 10 years,” he said. “It’s kind of like, if you live in California, you expect earthquakes and fires. I think Covid is affecting the area more, to be honest.”