Weakening winds overnight enabled firefighters in Orange County to begin to control two raging wildfires that left two front-line crew members hospitalized and were threatening tens of thousands of homes.
Fire authorities reported significant progress Wednesday in setting up containment lines around the two blazes, the latest eruptions in a year in which California’s hills, valleys and forests have been scorched north to the south.
With more than 1,300 personnel fighting the two fires, the Orange County Fire Authority said crews had widened containment of the Silverado fire to 25% from 5% on Tuesday, after it charred through 13,354 acres.
“The most important thing is we’ve had zero homes lost,” OCFA Capt. Ben Gonzalez said in a video briefing, crediting fire crews for keeping the flames away from residences.
Two firefighters, who were critically injured with second- and third-degree burns when the fires erupted on Monday, were still hospitalized on Wednesday, an OCFA spokesman said.
More than 89,000 homes and businesses were still being threatened by the Silverado fire in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains near Irvine, and the Blue Ridge fire near Yorba Linda, which started shortly thereafter, an OCFA spokesman said.
More than 100,000 residents were ordered to leave their homes as the two fires south of Los Angeles reached their peak of danger on Tuesday, but some evacuation orders have since been lifted, the spokesman said.
The Blue Ridge fire, which destroyed one structure and damaged seven others, was 16% contained by Wednesday morning, up from no containment at all, after burning through 14,334 acres, Cal Fire said.
Santa Ana winds have steadily slowed since the outbreak of the blazes, prompting the National Weather Service to downgrade its fire threat risk to moderate on Wednesday and minor for the rest of the week.
“With favorable weather, fire crews will find opportunities to establish more control lines,” Cal Fire said in a statement.
Across the state, nearly 5,000 crew members were still battling 22 wildfires on Wednesday, and had successfully contained 23 new ones, according to the statement.
Wildfires this year have ravaged California, scorching more than 6,400 square miles — equivalent to the land mass of the state of Hawaii – since the start of the year, with 31 lives lost and thousands of homes destroyed.
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