On Wednesday evening, a blaze of unknown cause broke out in a house in Silverado Canyon, a gorge in southern California’s Santa Ana Mountains southeast of Los Angeles. However, by Friday morning it had already burned 6,400 acres of land, destroying at least four homes and damaging seven more, according to local reports.
According to CBS Los Angeles, a notorious regional weather event called the “Santa Ana winds” helped fan what is now known as the Bond Fire into an uncontrolled conflagration. The hot, dry air that rushes down the western slopes of the mountains regularly reaches 40 miles per hour in speed and is known for fueling the area’s autumn wildfire season. San Diego Gas & Electric recorded a 94 mph gust earlier this week.
Videos of the flames and their destruction have been posted on social media by residents as well as the account of the Orange County Fire Authority, which has some 500 firefighters attempting to halt the burn. They present an image that has become all too familiar in recent years.
#BondFire Update: Mandatory evacuation order for Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills West of El Toro and North of 241 Toll Road. Remaining Portola Hills is under voluntary evacuation warning.— OCFA PIO (@OCFA_PIO) December 3, 2020
The @OrangeCountyEOC has activated its hotline for residents: 714-628-7085. pic.twitter.com/74rCmByK3i
Mandatory evacuation orders now for residents of Modjeska Canyon. The #BondFire has exploded to 1,500 acres and structures are threatened in Silverado and Williams Canyons also. More than 240 firefighters are on the fire line working to protect lives/property. pic.twitter.com/4QR7sp9PF7— OCFA PIO (@OCFA_PIO) December 3, 2020
Some of the aftermath from the #Bondfire in Modjeska Canyon; Fire at 10% containment as of 9:30am pt and 6400 acres; Cause: House fire in Silverado Canyon. 25,000 people under voluntary and mandatory evacuations. @nbcla pic.twitter.com/QG9oovrO9Z— Mekahlo Medina (@MekahloNBCLA) December 4, 2020
"I heard screams, like, 'fire, fire, it's right here so we have to leave right now,'" Silverado resident Jerry van Wolfgang told KCAL-TV about the blaze’s sudden explosion. "I looked out the window and it was already so big."
The fire has already forced 25,000 people from their homes, and firefighters only had the blaze 10% contained as of Friday afternoon, KTLA reported.
The area burned by the Bond Fire had expanded by Friday to near the fire-scarred area destroyed by the Silverado Fire in October, which torched more than 13,000 acres.
The quick Santa Ana Winds also helped the fire to be spotted by NASA satellites, as it blew the smoke out to sea.
Bond Fire— NASA MODIS Imagery (@NASA_MODIS) December 4, 2020
This image of the #BondFire burning in Silverado Canyon in #California's Orange County was acquired on 12/3/20 by #NASA's MODIS sensor aboard the Aqua satellite. @OCFA_PIO reported that, as of late on 12/3, the fire was 10% contained and had spread over 6,400 acres. pic.twitter.com/HrKi901kBT
At least two US Forest Service firefighters have been injured fighting the blaze. Their conditions are unknown, but CBS reported they were rushed to local hospitals.
Because of the Red Flag warnings prompted by the dry air and high winds, local power provider Southern California Edison had already cut power to 15,000 homes and businesses in a bid to stop a fire before it starts, but said as many as 263,000 remain under consideration for temporary electrical cuts. However, the power cuts have also limited phone service, meaning that many people issued evacuation orders never received them, CBS noted.
Sparks from power lines and their related facilities have been blamed for a number of destructive wildfires in California, including the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 84 people in northern California - the state’s deadliest-ever wildfire.
In March, Pacific Gas & Electric pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully causing a fire. The agreement saw the power company pay out $3.48 million fines, agree to cover the costs of the investigation, and set up a $13.5 billion trust to compensate victims of the fire as well as other fires of similar cause going back to 2015.
According to The Weather Channel, wildfires have consumed more than 6,500 square miles of California this year, damaging or destroying more than 10,400 buildings and killing at least 31 people.