Firefighters will work Thursday to expand the containment of the four-day-old, 9,217-acre Canyon Fire 2 in the Anaheim Hills and expect to complete the encirclement of the blaze Saturday.
Thousands of people evacuated after the fire broke out Monday have returned home, and schools that had not reopened as of Wednesday were scheduled to do so Thursday. Fire crews increased the containment figure to 60 percent on Wednesday.
Most evacuation orders prompted by the fast-moving blaze, which destroyed 13 homes and two other structures and damaged 21 homes, were lifted around 5 p.m. Tuesday, with much of the blaze doused on the west side of the 241 toll road, allowing crews to focus their efforts on the eastern flank. The rest were lifted Wednesday.
A portion of the toll road damaged by the blaze will remain closed indefinitely, according to Lisa Telles of the Transportation Corridor Agencies, which manages toll roads in Orange County.
The flames damaged electrical cables, signs, guardrails, fences and traffic control devices, Telles said. There is no estimate when work will be done on repairing the damage and clearing the road of fire retardant, she said.
In Anaheim, Santa Ana Canyon Road between Woodcrest and Gypsum Canyon roads remains closed, fire authorities said.
Two firefighters suffered minor smoke inhalation battling the blaze.
Residents returning to their homes were being advised to check their property for fire and water damage to ensure structures are safe.
Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi cautioned Wednesday morning that the exact figures on the number of structures destroyed and damaged were “fluctuating,” and said only about 25 percent of possibly affected structures had been inspected so far.
Concialdi also urged residents to drive carefully in the affected areas, where more than 1,650 firefighters were deployed in the mopping up effort.
Authorities acknowledged hundreds of prisoners from the Fenner Canyon Conservation Camp in Valyermo in the Mojave Desert who helped extinguish hot spots and clear brush Wednesday, preventing the blaze from kicking up again, The Orange County Register reported.
“The inmates provide a valuable resource,” Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz told The Register of the near 500 minimum-security inmates who assisted in the fight. “It seeds the march toward our goal of 100 percent containment of this fire.”
The inmates must volunteer to work in fire camps and meet other requirements and are paid $2 for each day in camp and $1 an hour while they are on a fire line, the newspaper reported.
Firefighters got a leg up on the blaze Tuesday thanks to diminished northeast winds, the onset of moist onshore winds, stepped-up manpower on the fire lines and the deployment of numerous water-dropping aircraft. Containment increased from 5 percent Tuesday morning to 60 percent by 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. It erupted Monday about a mile from the area scorched by the recent Canyon Fire, which blackened more than 2,600 acres and took more than a week to contain. The new fire initially broke out near the Riverside (91) Freeway east of Gypsum Canyon Road, near the Coal Canyon flashpoint of September’s Canyon Fire, according to the OCFA.
But while last month’s Canyon Fire burned east, winds of about 25 mph pushed its sequel to the west on Monday, prompting mandatory evacuation orders for residents south of the Riverside Freeway and west of the 241 toll road.
The evacuation area was repeatedly expanded — with 5,000 homes in Anaheim Hills, Orange and Tustin under evacuation orders at the fire’s height.
Chapman University in Orange was closed Monday and Tuesday due to smoky air from the blaze, but classes resumed Wednesday. Santiago Canyon College will resume classes Thursday, along with all Orange Unified School District schools that had not reopened by Wednesday.
— City News Service
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