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California fires: Two blazes still growing but some residents are allowed to return home

CNN logo CNN 10/27/2020 By Madeline Holcombe and Cheri Mossburg, CNN
a man flying through the air on a snow covered mountain: Firefighters look out over a burning hillside as they fight the Blue Ridge Fire in Yorba Linda, California, October 26, 2020. - Some 60,000 people fled their homes near Los Angeles on October 26 as a fast-spreading wildfire raged across more than 7,200 acres (3,000 hectares), blocking key roadways and critically injuring two firefighters. © Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images Firefighters look out over a burning hillside as they fight the Blue Ridge Fire in Yorba Linda, California, October 26, 2020. - Some 60,000 people fled their homes near Los Angeles on October 26 as a fast-spreading wildfire raged across more than 7,200 acres (3,000 hectares), blocking key roadways and critically injuring two firefighters.

Two out-of-control wildfires in Southern California grew Tuesday, but while officials issued some new evacuation orders, they also told many residents from Irvine they could go home.

The Silverado Fire near Irvine has charred 12,600 acres and is 5% contained. Just north of that, the Blue Ridge Fire near Yorba Linda has ballooned in size, more than doubling its footprint, currently calculated at 15,200 acres. The fire, which is 0% contained, has damaged 10 homes.

More than 80,000 people have been told to stay away from their homes, including some NFL football players for the Los Angeles Chargers.

That number is down by about 20,000, as many residents who fled Irvine have been told the area is safe now.

Southern California Edison said a power line may have played a role in igniting the Silverado Fire, according to a report filed with California Public Utilities Commission.

The initial safety incident report describes overhead electrical facilities in the area where authorities think the fire started but notes no activity on the circuit.

"...(It) appears that a lashing wire attached to a telecommunications line may have contacted SCE's power line above it, possibly starting the fire," SCE spokesman Chris Abel told CNN.

Between the fires roaring in Southern California and dry, windy conditions prompting red flag warnings in Northern California, power companies have enacted Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).

Nearly 130,000 customers in California were without power Tuesday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.US.

The bulk of the customers are managed by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) for Northern California and Southern California Edison.

Two firefighters suffer severe burns

Fire officials said 1,800 people are battling the two fires, and on Monday two of them were critically injured.

The men suffered second- and third-degree burns while battling the Silverado Fire near Irvine, Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy told reporters.

Fennessy said Tuesday they were "fighting for their lives."

"I know them personally. They are strong. Having gotten to know their parents over the past 24 hours, I can see where they got their strength, Fennessy said. "It's tough to feel this helpless."

The men, ages 26 and 31, are part of Orange County Fire Authority's ground crew. Their names haven't been released. The team uses hand tools to stop wildfire flames from progressing, much like hotshots.

Three other firefighters had minor injuries, were treated at the hospital, and released.

Things changed very fast, evacuee says

As Ed Pascasio fled from the Silverado Fire on Monday afternoon with his wife, niece and sister-in-law, he watched embers flying toward their neighborhood.

"The sky was orange, kind of like doomsday," he said. "I've never seen it change dramatically that fast."

The cars packed on main roads -- filled with fleeing residents -- resembled a movie scene, Pascasio said.

"A lot of neighbors were leaving at the same time. Everyone was shocked by the speed of it all," he said.

This has been a devastating year for fires. At least 8,000 fire incidents reported by Cal Fire have burned a record 4 million acres and claimed the lives of 31 people this year so far. And dry, windy conditions have prompted power shutoffs to prevent more.

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