A fast-moving vegetation fire on the edge of Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties had gobbled up 14,334 acres as of Tuesday evening, Oct. 27 – a blaze that threatened homes in Yorba Linda and Chino Hills, fire officials said.
So far, firefighters had not contained any part of the perimeter of the Blue Ridge fire, which had damaged 10 homes in Yorba Linda, according to the Orange County Fire Authority. Fire officials said the blaze initially was measured at 15,200 acres on Tuesday, but was later downsized after more precise measurements.
Late Tuesday morning, Luis Orellana was streaming to Facebook Live from the sidewalk outside his home on Mystic Canyon Road in Chino Hills.
Through his cellphone he recorded a frightening scene – a line of fire that creeped across a nearby hill, descended into a ravine and shot up a tower of flames.
As he spoke to friends and family, Orellana sounded excited, resigned and worried.
“I’m like the captain of a boat – I’m going down with the ship, going down with my home,” he said, holding his phone in one hand and a red Solo cup in the other.
Orellana was one of 20,000 Chino Hills-area residents or so ordered to evacuate or at least be ready to flee the Blue Ridge fire. About 10,000 Orange County residents, including some in Yorba Linda, Brea and Carbon Canyon, were also given evacuation orders.
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The Blue Ridge originated just before 1 p.m. Monday as two separate fires merged: one near the Green River Golf Club in Corona, north of the 91 Freeway, and the other in the area of Blue Ridge and Kodiak Mountain drives in Yorba Linda.
There were no details as to what started them.
They kicked up just after another large blaze, in south Orange County, called the Silverado fire, which had burned 13,354 acres as of Tuesday evening.
“Of course, I’m worried,” said Bill Jabi, 54 sitting inside his car at the bottom of his driveway in Butterfield Ranch, Orellana’s subdivision on the west side of the 71 Freeway.
A half-dozen relatives were poised near their cars, eating chocolate croissants and watching hotshot firefighters trudge into the backyard. The family was packed.
“Passports, birth certificates, documents, those sorts of things,” Jabi said.
Neighbors’ garage doors were open, with their cars packed, too. Some sprinklers were left on; other people hosed down the sides of their homes.
“We have clothes for about two days,” Yolanda Hunter said. “And our dogs. Everything’s in the car and ready to go.”
The last time a fire got this close was the Freeway Complex fire in 2008.
Tuesday, the latest fire rolled northwest toward Carbon Canyon communities near Chino Hills State Park, Chino Valley Fire Department spokeswoman Massiel De Guevara said.
Ground crews had the help of numerous air resources from multiple fire agencies.
“We are working in some steep terrain, and we do have challenges posed by Santa Ana winds, but personnel are doing an excellent job,” De Guevara said.
#BlueRidgeFire (#YorbaLinda) Branch I is advising approximately 100 head of cattle are trapped with fire rapidly approaching. 4 large helitankers are currently working to protect them with large air tankers en route. SB-71 will be shutting down due to this incident also. pic.twitter.com/eWPyCnAt5O
— SoCal Air Operations (@SocalAirOps) October 27, 2020
Firefighters in Corona were also battling the blaze from their side and so far hadn’t reported any damage.
In all, about 1,000 fire personnel were on hand. There had been no reported injuries to firefighters or residents.
On Blue Ridge Drive in Yorba Linda, near where one of the fires began, firefighters Tuesday doused a large home at the end of the cul de sac. The front facade of the home was still standing, but just inside much of the building was gutted and most of the roof collapsed.
In Chino Hills, Capt. John Walker, who heads San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s station there, said deputies would patrol evacuated areas to keep homes safe from illegal activity.
Orellana had stayed put, but his wife and children had left as the fire got close. He stayed to keep an eye on the house and pack up more stuff if he had to leave. He also remembered the 2008 fire.
“Yeah, I’m worried,” he said. “This is as close as it’s gotten since then. Thank God for all these firefighters.”
He watched as a bright-red firefighting helicopter flew in overheard, hovered over the hillside, then unleashed a torrent of dark liquid over the flaming brush.
“There we go, that’s what we need,” Orellana said.
Your Corona Firefighters worked through the night to protect our city from the Blue Ridge Fire. While there is still much work to be done, the efforts of the CFD have resulted in minimal fire activity on the Corona side of the fire with no current threat to our community. pic.twitter.com/0h5fT3v6y1
— Corona Fire Dept #CoronaFire (@CoronaFireDept) October 27, 2020