Most evacuations lifted for Canyon Fire 2 as containment reaches 60 percent

ANAHEIM (KUSI) — The last remaining evacuation order has been lifted as firefighters continue to make progress in their battle against a Southern California wildfire that destroyed 23 buildings, including some homes.

As of Wednesday night, the blaze was 60 percent contained after burning some 9,000 acres of brush and grass – nearly 14 ½ square miles of devastation.

Authorities are hoping that cooler, more humid weather will allow them to fully surround the blaze by Sunday.

Fire officials confirmed Wednesday morning that 13 homes in the eastern Anaheim area were destroyed by the fast-moving blaze, and 15 others were damaged. Two outbuildings, believed to be garages or sheds, were also destroyed. Officials warned that numbers would fluctuate as damage inspection continued. Assessment progress was at 25 percent Wednesday morning. 

According to fire officials, all evacuation orders and road closures in the area were lifted at 5 p.m. with the exception of houses off Windes Drive north of Santiago Canyon Road in Orange. That street will remain closed, along with Santa Ana Canyon Road between Woodcrest and Gypsum Canyon roads in Anaheim.

Residents returning to their homes were being advised to check their property for fire and water damage to ensure the structure is safe. Officials in Orange advised returning residents who own large animals to wait at least 24 hours before retrieving them. 

The lifting of evacuations was the latest good news from the fire line, with authorities reporting that the blaze was 40 percent contained, 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.

Fire crews reported late Tuesday afternoon that they had build a "solid containment line” along the eastern edge of communities near the 241.

More than 1,600 firefighters battled the blaze Tuesday, aided by numerous crews in water-dropping aircraft. The onshore winds that whipped the fire out of control on Monday diminished and shifted direction Tuesday, aiding in the firefight.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, officials said.

The fire 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. Smoke from the new blaze could be seen for miles in all directions Monday, prompting warnings from health officials for people to remain indoors.

The 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.

Related Link: 10 deaths reported in Northern California wildfires, Gov. Brown issues state of emergency

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency proclamation for Orange County late Monday, freeing up state resources to help with battling the fire. The federal government on Tuesday approved a disaster declaration for California, focusing mostly on fires in the northern part of the state that have killed at least 15 people.

Firefighters battled the flames Monday amid dry, gusty conditions that prompted red flag warnings across the region. Those red flag warnings expired by mid-morning Tuesday.

Two firefighters suffered a minor smoke-inhalation injuries battling the blaze.

Chapman University in Orange was closed Monday and Tuesday due to smoky air from the blaze, but classes were scheduled to resume Wednesday. Santiago Canyon College will remain closed Wednesday.

Orange Unified School District officials said El Modena High School, Santiago Charter Middle School and El Rancho Charter Middle School will all reopen Wednesday, but six elementary schools — Anaheim Hills, Canyon Rim, Chapman Hills, Linda Vista, Panorama and Running Springs — will be closed. All other schools in the district will be open.

Categories: Local San Diego News