Fire in Anaheim Hills Burns At Least 6,000 Acres, 24 Homes Destroyed

ANAHEIM (CNS) - A fast-moving, wind-driven brush fire today destroyed at least 24 homes and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents while scorching about 6,000 acres after breaking out in Anaheim Hills.

About 1,000 firefighters battled the flames amid dry, gusty conditions that prompted fire warnings across the region.

One firefighter sustained a minor smoke-inhalation injury, authorities said.

The fire erupted about a mile from the area scorched by the recent Canyon Fire that blackened more than 2,600 acres and took more than a week to contain.

Initially reported at 25 acres, the latest blaze -- dubbed Canyon Fire 2 -- exploded across about 500 acres by midday, then across 4,000 to beyond 5,000 acres by late afternoon, fire officials said.

By Monday night it was only 5 percent contained.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency proclamation for Orange County late Monday, freeing up state resources to help with battling the fire.

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

Schools from South Los Angeles to Corona to Long Beach took precautions to protect students, primarily by keeping them inside, as sunny skies gave way to smoke-fueled gloom. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory for a wide swath of Orange County and southern Los Angeles County.

The full extent of damage and the size of the fire would probably not be clear until after dawn Tuesday, according to Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi.

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 whipping at 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. An information hotline was set up at (714) 765-4333.

Officials in the neighboring city of Orange issued evacuation orders for all residents north of Santiago Canyon road to the city border with Anaheim. That order was later extended south to Chapman Avenue, then south again into the Santiago Hills area as far south as Canyon View Avenue.

A non-emergency information hotline was set up in Orange at (714) 744-7550.

The Tustin Ranch area was also evacuated.

Anaheim fire officials said late Monday afternoon that as many as 5,000 homes were being threatened by the fire. It was unclear how long the evacuation orders would be in place, but officials said no evacuated residents would be allowed to return to their homes Monday night.

Two evacuation centers were established in Anaheim: East Anaheim Community Center, 8201 E. Santa Ana Canyon Road, and the Downtown Anaheim Youth Center, 225 S. Philadelphia St. Those centers were not expected to remain open overnight.

Overnight shelters were established at El Modena High School, 3920 E. Spring St., in Orange and at Katella High School, 2200 E. Wagner Ave., Anaheim.

The Village at Orange mall, 1500 E. Village Way, was made available as a staging area for residents unable to reach their homes due to the fire, although the mall was not designated an evacuation center.

Residents with large animals were urged to take them to the Orange County Fairgrounds.

The Country Car Pet Resort at 4691 Valley View Ave. in Yorba Linda was accepting companion pets at no cost during the emergency and can accommodate 120 dogs and around 50 cats.

Yorba, Irvine and Santiago Oaks regional parks were all closed to the public ``as a precaution due to the proximity of the fire,'' said Marisa O'Neil of OC Parks.

Three elementary schools -- Running Springs, Anaheim Hills and Canyon Rim -- in the Orange Unified School District were evacuated Monday, with students bused to Canyon High School.

District officials said those three schools will remain closed Tuesday, along with six other campuses:

-- Chapman Hills Elementary;

-- Linda Vista Elementary;

-- Panorama Elementary;

-- Santiago Charter School;

-- El Rancho Charter School; and

-- El Modena High School.

Santiago Canyon College and Chapman University were both closed and evacuated Monday, and all classes canceled. Santiago Canyon College would remain closed Tuesday, officials there said.

``We are monitoring the situation minute by minute and will resume classes when the local fire and health authorities, as well as campus leadership, determine that it is safe,'' said Chapman spokeswoman Sheri Ledbetter.

Chapman students who live off campus and had to be evacuated were directed to go to Randall Dining Commons or the Student Union in Argyros Forum for shelter, Ledbetter said.

Firefighters today were assisted by 10 water-dropping helicopter crews and 12 fixed-wing aircraft.

Eastbound lanes of the Riverside Freeway were closed at 11:50 a.m. at Imperial Highway because of the smoke and reduced visibility, Caltrans spokeswoman Yvonne Washington said. The westbound lanes were closed at the 241 connector, but later reopened.

The 241 was closed in both directions between the 91 Freeway and Chapman Avenue/Santiago Canyon Road. The Gypsum Canyon Road off-ramps were also closed on the 91.

Motorists were advised to take the Orange (57) Freeway to the Pomona (60) Freeway, California Highway Patrol Officer Florentino Olivera said.

``Or Ortega Highway if you're down south,'' Olivera said.

CHP officials were working at day's end to open all but the right lane on the eastbound Riverside Freeway, Olivera said.

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