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Blue Ridge Fire: Blaze Burns 15,000 Acres; Evacuation Orders Issued In Chino Hills

Updated
Published
Firefighters look out over a burning hillside as they fight the Blue Ridge Fire in Yorba Linda on Oct. 26, 2020. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

This story is no longer being updated. Follow our coverage of the Blue Ridge Fire for Wednesday, Oct. 28 >>

The Blue Ridge Fire burned into its second day Tuesday in Orange County, prompting some mandatory evacuations.

Fire officials said weather conditions are expected to improve today, with wind gusts of 20 mph predicted.

"Aircraft is anticipated to be used, provided the weather cooperates," Orange County Fire Authority officials said.

THE BASICS

  • Acreage: 15,200
  • Containment: 0%
  • Structures threatened: 2,500 homes in Yorba Lina; 5,958 homes in Chino Hills
  • Structures damaged/destroyed: 10 homes damaged, per fire officials
  • Resources deployed: 1,000 firefighters
  • Residents under evacuation orders: 10,000

EVACUATIONS

Check the Orange County Emergency Public Information Map to see if you may be in an evacuation zone.

A mandatory evacuation is in place for Yorba Linda residents living east of San Antonio Road and north of Yorba Linda Boulevard.

An evacuation warning is in effect for residents in the areas of Bee Canyon, Box Canyon and Lost Trough Canyon.

The city of Chino Hills announced mandatory evacuations for some residents in the area of Soquel Canyon Parkway that had previously been under a warning.

An evacuation center for people and small animals has been established at the Chino Hills Community Center, 14250 Peyton Drive. Large animals can be taken to the McCoy Equestrian & Recreation Center, 14280 Peyton Drive.

HOW DOES THIS IMPACT VOTING?

Four ballot drop boxes in Orange County have been closed, as they happen to be inside the evacuation zones for both the Silverado and Blue Ridge Fires.

Officals say voters should utilize alternate options for returning their ballots.

All ballots in the affected drop boxes have been retrieved and secured by Registrar of Voters’ Ballot Collection Teams under escort by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

You can find updated ballot dropbox info here.

HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS

This is a developing story. We fact-check everything and rely only on information from credible sources (think fire, police, government officials and reporters on the ground). Sometimes, however, we make mistakes and/or initial reports turn out to be wrong. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.

FIRE RESOURCES

YOUR QUESTIONS OR IDEAS

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Silverado Fire: Blaze Near Irvine Grows To More Than 12,000 Acres; Containment At 5%

Updated
Published
Firefighters keep watch during the Silverado Fire in Orange County on October 26, 2020 in Lake Forest. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

This story is no longer being updated. Follow our coverage of the Silverado Fire for Wednesday, Oct. 28 >>

This post was late updated at 6 p.m.

Follow these official sources for latest updates after-hours:


The Silverado Fire continues to burn a day after it erupted, quickly spreading in the hills near Irvine, prompting more than 75,000 people to evacuate and critically injuring two firefighters.

The two firefighters were burned over at least half their bodies and were intubated Monday. Orange County Fire Chief Brian Fennesy described them as "gravely injured."

Three other firefighters have sustained minor injuries.

The fire started at 6:47 a.m. in the area of Santiago Canyon Road and Silverado Canyon Road, according to a post from the city of Irvine.

The area has been under a red flag warning through at least 6 p.m. today because of strong, dry Santa Ana winds.

At 4 p.m., the O.C. Fire Authority said they were continuing air operations to douse the flames with fire retardant, giving crews a chance "completely extinguish the fire," tweeting that firefighters would "continue to battle the flames throghout the night."

THE BASICS

  • Acreage: 12,600
  • Containment: 5%
  • Structures threatened: 70,000 homes in Irvine and8000 homes in Lake Forest are in evacuation zones
  • Structures destroyed: None
  • Resources deployed: 750+ firefighters

BACKGROUND

The area that's burning last burned in the Santiago Fire back in 2007.

That fire consumed 28,000 acres and destroyed 42 structures. Fuel is lighter this time around because of the previous fire, but there are far more homes threatened as developments have expanded.

CAUSE

Nothing is confirmed yet, but Southern California Edison has notified the state that it's power line may have sparked the fire.

The report says "it appears that a lashing wire that was attached to an underbuilt telecommunication line may have contact SCE’s overhead primary conductor which may have resulted in the ignition of the fire."

An internal investigation at SCE is ongoing, according to the report.

EVACUATIONS

Note: Some areas of Irvine are now being re-populated. Find details via this map.

Mandatory:

  • All residences from Irvine Boulevard south to Trabuco Road and from Jeffrey Road east to Portola High School
  • Communities in the city of Lake Forest, Baker Ranch and Foothill Ranch
  • Residents in Modjeska Canyon

Check the Orange County Emergency Public Information Map to see if you may be in an evacuation zone.

Warnings:

  • Residents in Mission Viejo should be prepared to evacuate:
    • El Toro Road to the north
    • Marguerite Parkway to the east
    • Upper Oso Reservoir to the east
    • Los Alisos Boulevard to the south
  • Silverado, Modjeska, Trabuco canyons along Live Oak Canyon

SCHOOL CLOSURES

All schools in the Irvine Unified and Tustin Unified school districts are closed today, according to Irvine city officials. Families were urged to monitor their phones and emails for updates and visit iusd.org and tustin.k12.ca.us for more information.

EVACUATION CENTERS

*For the most up-to-date information on evacuations, the Orange County Sheriff's Department website has an emergency map.

  • University High School: 4771 Campus Dr
  • Woodbridge High School: 2 Meadowbrook
  • Las Lomas Community Center: 10 Federation Way
  • Turtle Rock Community Center: 1 Sunnyhill, 92603
  • University Community Center: 1 Beech Tree Lane
  • Quail Hill Community Center: 35 Shady Canyon Dr
  • Los Olivos Community Center: 101 Alfonso
  • Harvard Community Center: 14701 Harvard
  • Rancho Senior Center: 3 Ethel Coplen Way
  • Newport Coast Community Center: 6401 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Newport Beach, CA 92657
  • Village Church of Irvine at 77 Post

Note: Officials say the evacuation centers allow pets, but residents also have the option of dropping off their pets at Irvine Animal Care Center.

ROAD CLOSURES

  • SR 241 from Santiago to the 133
  • Northbound/Southbound Interstate 5 connector to northbound 133
  • Northbound 133 between the 5 and 241
  • Northbound 133 connector to northbound 241
  • Southbound 133 between the 241 and 5
  • Portolla from 241 to Jamboree
  • Northbound 241 fully closed from Oso Pkwy to SR 91
  • Southbound 241 between SR-91 and Lake Forest Drive
  • Northbound 261 between Irvine Boulevard and 241/Santiago Canyon Road
  • Southbound 261 between 241/Santiago Canyon Rd and Irvine Blvd
  • Santiago Canyon Road from Cooks to the 241
  • Irvine Boulevard from Alton to Sand Canyon
  • All roadways north of Irvine Boulevard remain closed
  • Great Park Boulevard east of Sand Canyon

In addition, the Southern Open Space Preserve, which includes Bommer Canyon, Quail Hill, and Shady Canyon trails, is closed.

HOW DOES THIS IMPACT VOTING?

Four ballot drop boxes in Orange County have been closed, as they happen to be inside the evacuation zones for both the Silverado and Blue Ridge Fires.

Officals say voters should utilize alternate options for returning their ballots.

All ballots in the affected drop boxes have been retrieved and secured by Registrar of Voters’ Ballot Collection Teams under escort by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

You can find updated ballot dropbox info here.

HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS

This is a developing story. We fact-check everything and rely only on information from credible sources (think fire, police, government officials and reporters on the ground). Sometimes, however, we make mistakes and/or initial reports turn out to be wrong. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.

FIRE RESOURCES

YOUR QUESTIONS OR IDEAS

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Health Officials Grant More Waivers To Reopen Schools For Youngest Grades

Updated
Published
Kadima Day School in West Hills added plexiglass barriers as part of COVID-19 precautions. (Courtesy of Kadima Day School)

Giant plexiglass barriers in the front of the classroom, an isolation room, outdoor picnic tables with assigned spots to sit, and a swivelling iPad streaming lessons for at-home learners are just some of the new features at Kadima Day School in West Hills, which reopened its classrooms for first- and second-graders today.

Schools in Los Angeles generally cannot reopen their classrooms for in-person instruction yet – with a few exceptions, like for small groups of students with special needs and who are learning English. But a few have been granted waivers by the L.A. County Department of Public Health to reopen for kids in transitional kindergarten through second grade.

Kadima Day, a private school in West Hills, was one of the first four schools to get one of those coveted waivers. All four of the first round of schools approved were private schools.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the department and state have approved 25 more waivers this week.

If you add in waivers granted by Long Beach and Pasadena’s health departments, 37 schools in Los Angeles County have gotten this permission so far.

Kadima Day Head of School Steven Lorch said he and his team had been interested in a waiver since Governor Gavin Newsom first introduced the idea in July. When it came time to apply in October, all the required changes and modifications cost the school an extra $135,000. Lorch said PPP funds, a grant, and fundraising helped cover the cost.

When he got the approval, he said he was “elated and relieved.”

“I completely understand why they wanted to limit it through second grade,” he explained. “That said, our older students -- they're doing well, with remote learning. They would do better if they were in person. The moment we can bring them back, we will.”

As of last week’s public health update, 110 schools had applied for the reopening waivers. Previously, to apply, schools had to provide letters of support from parents and from staff. But California State PTA had discouraged PTA chapters from signing these letters, citing “potential liability,” and some administrators wondered if the labor support requirement would make it easier for private schools to apply than public schools with unionized staff.

Now, the county department is changing a few of these application requirements. Instead of requiring explicit letters of support, they’ll instead require “consultation” with staff and parents “to accommodate the time delays associated with obtaining letters of support,” according to a statement from L.A. Public Health.

Still, Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors that they’re encouraging schools applying to get letters of support, even if they’re not required anymore.

“[It’s] impossible to imagine that you could open up for services for students grades TK through grade 2 without having teachers, staff and parents supporting those efforts,” Ferrer said.

You can see a map of Southern California schools that have applied for reopening waivers below.

If you work at or have a kid at a Los Angeles County school that has applied for a waiver – whether or not it has been approved – I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at cjavier@scpr.org.

As for when and how the county’s largest district, Los Angeles Unified, could reopen: The union representing its teachers reiterated on Friday that they’re continuing to bargain over when and how to reopen schools once permitted by public health authorities, and emphasized that “a return is not imminent.” Superintendent Austin Beutner echoed a similar sentiment during Tuesday’s LAUSD board meeting, acknowledging that “the state has issued guidelines and we are still well above those guidelines.”

There is another way for schools to reopen, though. Ferrer said since September, more than 1,000 schools have reopened for small groups of students in need of specialized, in-person services, like students with disabilities and students learning English.

Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that there have been “small numbers of cases” related to those school reopenings, adding, “and with only two exceptions, there are no outbreaks.”

FOR MORE ABOUT THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SCHOOLS APPLYING FOR AND OBTAINING WAIVERS:

READ MORE OF OUR COVERAGE OF THE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS:

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Watchdog’s Report Finds Racial Disparities In LAPD Traffic Stops

Updated
Published
LAPD Headquarters. (Andrew Cullen for LAist)

A new report from the Los Angeles Police Commission Inspector General found racial disparities in both the frequency of police traffic stops and post-stop activity.

The study compared the racial breakdown of stops in L.A. to the demographic makeup of the city’s population. Of 672,569 officer-initiated stops in 2019, the study found that 27% of the people were perceived to be Black, in a city where Blacks represent just 9% of the population.

“When comparing these two sets of numbers, we noted that people identified as Black were substantially overrepresented in the number of officer-initiated stops made in Los Angeles, while those identified as White or Asian were underrepresented,” Assistant Inspector General Camelia Naguib told the Police Commission.

The report found 46% of the people stopped were perceived to be Hispanic, 18% were perceived to be White and 4% Asian.

The report found that Black and Hispanic people who were stopped were more likely to have both their person and property searched than White people were.

The study comes after the L.A. Times reported last year that LAPD cops “search Blacks and Latinos far more often than whites during traffic stops.”

Among other things, the report recommends moving away from pretextual stops — stops for minor violations that are initiated in an attempt to prevent more serious crimes. Pretextual stops “appear to have a disparate impact on certain racial groups, and ... also appear to be relatively ineffective in identifying more serious crimes,” the report said.

“[M]any people who have been subjects of pretextual stops consider them to be humiliating, demeaning, and unfair, particularly when officers’ actions during the stops did not appear to be warranted by the behavior of the stopped person,” it said.

The report recommended the LAPD weigh the use of pretextual stops against their impact on community trust.

The report indicates that "lower-level traffic stops are not correlated to crime suppression [and] arrests," said Commission President Eileen Decker.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore acknowledged that his department needs “to take a closer look” at the report’s findings regarding stops “for the basis of equipment violations and minor offenses, particularly in communities of color.” He said there’s “much work” to be done in further analyzing the data.

The largest number of stops in 2019 occurred in South Central and South L.A., the report found, with West L.A. seeing the lowest number.

The Police Commission plans to vote Nov. 17 on possible actions in response to the report.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

LA City, County Are Piloting A Much Faster, Cheaper COVID-19 Test

Updated
Published
About 750 firefighters are participating in the study's initial phase. (Mayor Eric Garcetti's office)

The city and county of L.A. are teaming up to experiment with antigen tests, a self-administered nasal swab test that is much cheaper and faster than the test officials have been using.

The tests L.A. has been using utilize a technique called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and are almost 100% accurate. Antigen tests aren’t as sensitive as the PCR versions, but they don’t require a lab or specialized health personnel and can produce results in 15 minutes.

“They’re more user friendly, and they produce much faster results,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“That will help us break the chain of transmission very quickly,” he said. “This could be the game changer we’ve been waiting for, but we have to assess that.”

So far some 750 firefighters are participating in the pilot. They’ll self-administer the antigen tests, whose results will be double checked by both a PCR test and an antibody test.

If the antigen tests catch asymptomatic firefighters, they’ll be offered at a couple of drive-through city COVID-19 testing sites.

The second phase of the pilot will try to determine if the antigen test can be used on school-age kids.

Researchers working on the study say antigen tests could help keep the pandemic at bay because they can be rolled out in vast numbers and hopefully can spot those at greatest risk of spreading the disease.

L.A. County remains in the most restrictive reopening tier due to ongoing widespread transmission. On Monday, the county hit two more grim milestones, with health officials reporting a total of 7,000 recorded deaths and more than 300,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

4.2 Million Acres Burned So Far In Historic Wildfire Season

Updated
Published

This has been an historic wildfire season, with 4.2 million acres burned, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said today.

So far this fire season, 31 people have died, and nearly 10,000 structures have been destroyed, with many times more than that damaged.

More than 5,000 firefighters are currently battling 14 major fires across the state. Just in the last 24 hours, firefighters responded to 42 new ignitions, but managed to stop most of them, which Newsom said is a testament to the firefighting successes we don't usually hear about.

The state has secured the ability to get reimbursements of up to 75% of fire suppression costs from the federal government, Newsom said.

Newsom relayed the latest figures during a live-streamed update on the state's response to the current wildfires and to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can watch a replay above or read highlights below.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our nonprofit public service journalism: Donate now.

City Of LA To Partner With County On Unarmed Mental Health Crisis Response

Updated
Published
Psychiatric Technician Connie Villareal inside a county "therapeutic transport" van. (Courtesy L.A. Dept. of Mental Health)

The city of L.A. is partnering with the county on a pilot program that uses mental health experts to respond to people having a mental health crisis.

The County Department of Mental Health already operates a similar program, using a fleet of 10 vans staffed by mental health experts and equipped with TV monitors that allow the patient to connect with a psychiatrist remotely, all while in-transit.

Under the new city pilot program, county mental health specialists will be based at five L.A. city fire stations. They’ll be integrated into the 911 system, although officials did not have details on which calls will be directed to them.

The pilot is set to begin Jan. 1.

“A lot of the things that we’re doing — and this in particular — represent a responsiveness to … what the communities need and frankly what the communities are demanding,” said Dr. Jonathan Sherin, director of the Department of Mental Health.

This year’s grassroots movement to reduce police funding has included a strong push to move away from relying on armed officers to deal with people experiencing a mental health crisis — an idea that has strong support among law enforcement.

The LAPD and Department of Mental Health already operate the Mental Evaluation Unit (MEU), which consists of two-person teams — one officer and one mental health clinician — that try to defuse mental health crises and direct the individual towards treatment instead of jail.

On Monday, LAPD chief Michel Moore praised the new partnership.

“Rather than looking to yet another program from LAPD, or LAFD, to engage in, it’s pulling things off of our plate and putting them with our mental health professionals,” he said. According to the LAPD, the MEU received about 20,000 calls in 2019.

Unarmed mental health response could prevent other crises from happening, said Eunisses Hernandez, co-executive director of La Defensa, a non-profit that works on alternatives to incarceration. She pointed to the deputy shooting of a person apparently experiencing a psychiatric crisis at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center earlier this month.

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Morning Briefing: Wildfires Break Out Amid Extreme Santa Ana Winds

Updated
Published
Orange County fire fighter John Nelson looks for hot spots (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Good morning, L.A.

Two firefighters were critically injured Monday with second- and third-degree burns as dangerously strong Santa Ana winds spread the Silverado Fire quickly through parts of Irvine.

The blaze broke out Monday morning, and promptly resulted in the evacuation of 90,000 residents. It originated near Santiago Canyon Road and Silverado Canyon Road, and had burned 7,000 acres by Monday evening. Officials reported sending 500 firefighters to the area.

A red flag warning had already been issued in the region, meaning that the weather could cause extreme fire behavior. As a preventive measure, Southern California Edison cut power to 21,000 customers in the foothills of San Bernardino County as well as parts of Sylmar, Santa Clarita, Orange County and more.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, October 27

What’s it like to be on the front lines of a wildfire, waiting for the worst? This time last year, Jacob Margolis decided to find out. At Station 89 in Agoura Hills, Strike Team 1103 Alpha was hunkered down, ready to jump into action.

The LAPD Chief, the Inspector General and the Police Commission will discuss the Inspector General's report on racial disparities in local traffic stops. Robert Garrova brings us up to speed.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors are expected to ask staff to research ways to impeach or otherwise remove Sheriff Alex Villanueva, as well as how to move from an elected to an appointed sheriff. Frank Stoltze will be following the story.

Never miss an LAist story. Sign up for our daily newsletters.


The Past 24 Hours In LA

Wildfires: The Silverado Fire is being driven by fierce Santa Ana winds and spread to 7,000 acres in just a few hours. The same area of Orange County that’s burning in the Silverado Fire also burned 13 years ago in what was described as one of the county's "most disastrous" wildfires in decades.

Policing The Police: Use-of-force experts have differing opinions about the fatal shooting of Anthony McClain by a Pasadena police officer.

Coronavirus Updates: COVID-19 and hospitalizations are on the increase among 12-to-17 year-olds. A local judge expressed disappointment that L.A.’s economic situation had gotten so bad that landlords and tenants were battling over the question of rent forgiveness in court.

Election 2020: In a North L.A. County race, Republican Mike Garcia is trying to hold onto the seat he won earlier this year in a special election against Democrat Christy Smith after Katie Hill resigned.

Here’s What To Do: Drive through the Upside Down at the Stranger Things experience, learn about the relocation of L.A.'s original Chinatown, explore how various cultures treat death and mourning, and more in this week’s best online and IRL events. Ofrendas, catrinas, mezcal mummies, and more ways to celebrate and explore the religious and cultural traditions of Day of the Dead.


Photo Of The Day

Firefighters work as the Silverado Fire moves toward a home in Irvine.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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