ANAHEIM (CNS) – Amid dry and windy conditions that prompted fire warnings across Southern California, a brush fire erupted Monday alongside the eastbound Riverside (91) Freeway near the 241 toll road in Anaheim Hills, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,000 homes, some of which were destroyed by flames.
The fire, which broke out around 9:45 a.m., was burning about a mile from the area scorched by the recent Canyon Fire that blackened more than 2,600 acres and took more than a week to contain.
Initially reported at 25 acres, the blaze — dubbed Canyon Fire 2 — exploded across about 500 acres by midday, then across 2,000 acres by early afternoon, fire officials said.
There was no immediate word on any injuries. Smoke from the blaze could be seen for miles in all directions.
With gusting winds pushing the fire and embers west, at least six homes burned on Canyon Heights near Banner Ridge Drive as the flames jumped west over the 241 toll road. At least four homes were completely gutted by the flames.
The fire initially broke out near the 91 Freeway and Gypsum Canyon Road, according to Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz. Winds whipping at about 25 mph pushed the fire west, prompting mandatory evacuation orders for residents south of the 91 Freeway and west of the 241 toll road. The evacuation area was repeatedly expanded, reaching west toward Nohl Ranch and Canyon Rim roads. An information hotline was set up at (714) 765-4333.
Officials in the neighboring city of Orange issued evacuation orders for all residents north of Santiago Canyon road to the city border with Anaheim. It was not immediately clear how many residents were affected by that order. A non-emergency information hotline was set up in Orange at (714) 744-7495.
Evacuated Anaheim residents were directed to the Downtown Anaheim Community Center, 250 E. Center St., or the Downtown Anaheim Youth Center, 225 S. Philadelphia. An evacuation center for horses was established on the west end of Yorba Regional Park, which was closed to the public along with Irvine and Santiago Oaks regional parks “as a precaution due to the proximity of the fire,” said Marisa O’Neil of OC Parks.
Fire officials said large animals could also be taken to the Orange County Fairgrounds.
In Orange, an evacuation center was established at at El Modena High School, 3920 E. Spring St.
Eastbound lanes of the 91 Freeway were closed at 11:50 a.m. at Imperial Highway because of the smoke and reduced visibility, said Caltrans spokeswoman Yvonne Washington. The westbound lanes were closed at the 241 connector, she added.
The 241 was closed in both directions between the 91 Freeway and Chapman Avenue/Santiago Canyon Road. The Gypsum Canyon Road off-ramps were also closed on the 91.
As of 11:30 a.m., westbound traffic on the 91 was backed up for seven and a half miles, Washington said.