70,000 in Southern California to evacuate after blaze grows

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Firefighters gather as the Silverado Fire approaches, near Irvine, California, U.S. October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

IRVINE, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — A fast-moving wildfire forced evacuation orders for 70,000 people and seriously injured two firefighters in Southern California on Monday as powerful winds across the state prompted power to be cut to hundreds of thousands to prevent utility equipment from sparking new blazes.

The smoky fire exploded in size to over 6 square miles (16 square kilometers) within a few hours of breaking out around dawn in Orange County, south of Los Angeles. Strong gusts pushed flames along brushy ridges in Silverado Canyon and near houses in the sprawling city of Irvine, home to about 280,000 residents. There was no containment.

Orange County Fire Chief, Brian Fennessy confirmed to NewsNation that two firefighters, one 26 and the other 31 years old, were critically injured while battling the blaze. They each suffered second- and third-degree burns over large portions of their bodies and were intubated at a hospital, officials said.

The Silverado Fire jumped CA-241 highway, according to Irvine city officials. The fire began shortly before 7 a.m. (PDT) Monday.

When firefighters arrived, it was 10 acres. Shortly before 10 a.m., officials estimated it had grown to 2,000 acres. By early afternoon, the fire had grown to 4,000 acres with 0% containment.

Several schools are under a mandatory evacuation.

Kelsey Brewer and her three roommates decided to leave their townhouse before the evacuation order came in. The question was where to go in the pandemic. They decided on the home of her girlfriend’s mother, who has ample space and lives alone.

“We literally talked about it this morning,” Brewer said, adding that she feels lucky to have a safe place to go. “We can only imagine how screwed everyone else feels. There’s nowhere you can go to feel safe.”

The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known.

This is a developing story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.