The flames continued to spread as residents in Anaheim, Orange and Tustin returned home Tuesday evening.
Nearly all evacuations orders in were lifted by fire officials, as danger to homes in the area passed.
Evacuation orders remained for all roads and houses of Windes Drive, north of Santiago Canyon Road in the city of Orange, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.
More than 1,000 firefighters from across the state will continue battling the Canyon Fire 2 in Orange County, which has now scorched 8,000 acres and is 40 percent contained.
Firefighters fought to contain a wildfire that quickly spread into an Anaheim Hills neighborhood the day before, burning homes and injuring at least two firefighters.
Firefighters managed to establish a solid containment line along the eastern edge of communities near the 241 Toll Road, according to Anaheim Fire. Thirteen homes in east Anaheim were destroyed by the fire, with another 21 suffering fire damage.
Video of Anaheim Hills Tuesday morning. (Jill Replogle/KPCC)
With winds easing off and a rise in humidity, the fire was fairly inactive on the western edge, Anaheim Fire Sgt. Daron Wyatt said Tuesday. Authorities were looking to build containment lines on the eastern edge to keep the fire from spreading into the Cleveland National Forest.
Wyatt said they expected a slight improvement in the weather but nothing that could shift the fight significantly in their favor until Wednesday.
About 20 people spent the night in the gym at El Modena High School. In the morning, they were served a breakfast of coffee, donuts and fruit.
One of those evacuees was Alice Santos, who slept on one of the cots set up in the gymnasium. Santos told KPCC she lives across from Irvine Regional Park near Santiago Canyon College, an area with quite a few homes abutting wildlands.
Santos said the fire moved quickly through the open space behind her house — between the time the police knocked on her door, around 1 p.m., and told her she had to evacuate and when she headed out the door.
“Two o’clock, we open the garage door, ready to leave …and then it’s at the backyard of my neighbor’s house.” She said she didn't get much sleep last night.
The evacuation center at Katella High School reportedly had even fewer overnight guests. Many of those forced to leave their homes may have stayed with family or friends or in hotels rather than sleep in a gym, though Wyatt said he had received some reports of people refusing to follow evacuation orders.
"We need you to heed the warnings. We understand that you want to stay in your homes, but you make it more difficult for the firefighters," Wyatt said. "They need to be able to get in there, they need to be able to provide for the safety of themselves and the other people fighting the fire, and having people in the evacuation zone just makes it more difficult for us to do our jobs."
Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman and Chief of Police Raul Quezada praised residents that did follow official warnings. They said no lives were lost during the initial blaze because of "heroic work of our first responders and the cooperation" of the community.
"We want to thank you for your prompt adherence to evacuations and your understanding of traffic restrictions," the chiefs' statement read. "Your cooperation has been critical."
Ashley and Farzin Farajzadeh got married three weeks ago — and now they've lost their home, along with everything inside. They watched online as flames engulfed several houses in their neighborhood, anxiously monitoring their home via a home security camera.
“It was OK, it was OK, and then 20 minutes later we check again, and we just see smoke everywhere,” Ashley said.
Tuesday morning, the couple slowly walked around the charred remains of their home on Canyon Heights Drive, just west of the 241 Toll Road.
Farzin’s green card is in the ashes somewhere, Ashley said, along with the remnants of one of Farzin's passions — his photographs.
"My husband is really into photography and his favorite thing when he’s reunited with his friends, he pulls out his computer and goes through photos from 15 years ago, and they just laugh about things,” Ashley said. "But all that’s totally gone.”
But the newlyweds will move on, Ashley said. “There’s nowhere to go but up right now,” she said. They plan to start with the basics: find a place to stay for the next few nights and buy some clothes, so they can change out of the ones they’ve been wearing since they left for work Monday.
One bright side: they hadn’t yet had their wedding photos developed. They’ll eventually have those good memories to decorate their new home.
Officials are offering several resident information hotlines:
- Anaheim: (714) 765-4333
- Irvine: (949) 724-7000
- Orange County: (714) 628-7085
- Orange PD: (714) 744-7550
- Tustin: (714) 628-7085
The evacuation shelters and firefighters currently have everything they need to combat the fire and aid those affected. Anaheim Fire and Rescue will let the public know if they need any more donations.
The Red Cross shelters set up at Katella High School in Anaheim and the other at El Modena High School in Orange and the OC Fire Department are not accepting donations.
People can also contribute financially to the American Red Cross, which is helping with relief efforts in various wildfires in California. A horseback riding instructor at the Peacock Hill Equestrian Center at Irvine Park has also set up an online fundraiser for Serrano Creek Ranch evacuees.
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