Silverado fire burns 13,000 acres, Irvine evacuates


Photo provided by Stanton Sharpe

AN EMPTY SCHOOL: Smoke billows over Northwood as a firefighter combats the wind-fueled Silverado fire, which burned through the edges of the Northwood campus and the surrounding vegetation.

Claire Chien, Mei Ono, and Anlon Zhu

Over 90,000 Irvine residents were placed under mandatory evacuation orders as the Silverado fire burned near Santiago Canyon Road and Silverado Canyon Road on Oct. 26. As of Nov. 1, over 13,000 acres had burned with 82% containment of the fire. All Irvine residents were allowed to repopulate.

The fire began at 6:47 a.m. with winds up to 70 mph blowing from the northeast. Despite 500 personnel battling the fire, 7,200 acres had burned by 4:30 p.m. with 0% containment, according to The Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA).

Residences north of Irvine Boulevard down to Trabuco Road and from Jamboree Road east to Portola High were ordered to evacuate. Northwood High was also placed under mandatory evacuation, followed by several elementary schools in the area. IUSD schools, including Irvine Virtual Academy, were closed for the next two days.

“Emergencies like this are always scary,” Northwood Principal Leslie Roach said. “When people are displaced in such a hurry, it is extremely stressful and scary.”

By the evening of Oct. 26, the fire burned the edges of Northwood near the football field and a few areas between buildings.

“We are extremely grateful to the firefighters and first responders who were quick to react and keep our community safe,” Roach said. “Our own School Resource Officer Tanya Ayalde was on campus and was able to turn on sprinklers which helped quite a bit.”

Irvine, University and Woodbridge High were used as temporary shelters. Los Olivos, Harvard and University Community Centers as well as six others were set as evacuation centers, five of which reached maximum capacity by 1 p.m. The shelters implemented mandatory face masks, social distancing and temperature checks in response to COVID-19 concerns, according to OCFA Public Information Officer Capt. Greg Barta.

“The evacuation was very hectic. We took all our cars and left,” senior Ronald Wang said.

Smoke from the fire carried as far as Long Beach, with air quality levels quickly declining. The Orange County Health Care Agency urged all residents to stay indoors, shut windows and doors and run air filters. Falling ash from the sky covered houses that were close in proximity, and streets were littered with broken branches as residents evacuated. Authority’s hand crew suffered major second and third-degree burns and are currently being intubated.

In IUSD, high schools were set to resume following normal academic models on Nov. 2. In these stressful times, counselors are available to help students who have been impacted by the fire.

“The stress we feel manifests in each of us differently, so we should all acknowledge it and be patient,” Roach said. “This is a complicating event to an already difficult time for our community and world with the pandemic.”