A rapidly spreading Southern California wildfire has burned more than 7,500 acres in Orange County, forcing the evacuation of thousands of homes and stretching the state’s emergency resources thin as numerous fires continue to rage upstate in California’s wine country.
The fire that erupted Monday morning has moved quickly through wide swaths of the hills around Anaheim, Orange and Tustin, its path sped by the dry Santa Ana winds and temperatures ranging into the mid-80s.
Officials are investigating what caused the fire, the largest in Orange County in about 10 years.
The thick smoke from what’s known as Canyon Fire 2 was visible from Disneyland and turned the sky a murky orange; it also prompted air quality warnings as far away as Los Angeles County.
More than 1,100 firefighters, 14 helicopters and six planes have been deployed to battle the blaze, and more are on the way according to Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority. At least 24 homes have been destroyed, and thousands of others are threatened.
Officials said the fire was 5 percent contained as of Tuesday morning; Concialdi said that number was likely to rise significantly throughout the day as the fire slowed down.
“We have fire engines up and down the street putting out hotspots,” he said.
Two schools have been evacuated and several others in the area were closed Tuesday.
The fire shut down part of the eastbound section of the Riverside Freeway and other roads, prompting one frustrated commuter, Jay Turner, to tell the Orange County Register: “It’s Carmageddon out here.”
Residents, some of whom returned home from work to find their houses in the evacuation zone, were diverted to various shelters set up in the area.
“How do you know what to do in situations like this?” said Dio Compolongo, who rushed his two younger sisters, both home sick, out of the house and into an evacuation center, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Two shelters had been set up to receive horses and other animals displaced by the flames.
The fires raging in Northern California continue to strain the state’s resources.
About 17 wildfires, concentrated mostly in Sonoma and Napa counties, have burned through at least 100,000 acres, destroying some 1,500 homes and commercial buildings and causing more than 20,000 people to evacuate from the region, California’s wine country.
More than a dozen people have died in the blazes and officials have cautioned that the number will likely rise.
The severe fire season in the western United States — more than 8 million acres have burned in at least four states — has drawn a focus on questions about how much climate change and forestry practices are to blame.