8,000 Acres Burned in Canyon Fire 2, as O.C. Residents Return Home

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ANAHEIM (CNS) - Containment of the 8,000-acre Canyon Fire 2, which has destroyed 13 homes and two other structures in the Anaheim area, increased to 45 percent contained today -- with full containment expected Saturday -- and some schools were scheduled to reopen.

Most evacuation orders prompted by the fast-moving blaze, which also 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.

Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi cautioned this 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.

Some firefighters were expected to be de-mobilized today, and full containment was expected on Saturday, Concialdi said.

On Tuesday, firefighters gained momentum 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. Fire crews reported late Tuesday afternoon that they had built a ``solid containment line'' along the eastern edge of communities near state Route 241. Containment increased from 5 percent Tuesday morning to 40 percent by day's end.

All evacuation orders and road closures in the area were lifted Tuesday evening, 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, fire authorities said.

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 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.

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, where at least 15 people have been killed.

Firefighters battled the flames Monday amid dry, gusty conditions that prompted red flag warnings across the region. Those red flag warnings, which denote a high risk of wildfire, 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 are scheduled to resume today. Santiago Canyon College will remain closed today.

Orange Unified School District officials said El Modena High School, Santiago Charter Middle School and El Rancho Charter Middle School will all reopen today, 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.

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