Fast-moving wildfires forced evacuation orders for more than 100,000 people and seriously injured two firefighters in Southern California on Monday as powerful winds across the state prompted power to be cut to hundreds of thousands to prevent utility equipment from sparking new blazes.
A smoky fire exploded in size to over 11 square miles (29 square kilometers) after breaking out around dawn in Orange County, south of Los Angeles.
Gusts pushed flames along brushy ridges in Silverado Canyon and near houses in the sprawling city of Irvine, home to about 280,000 residents.
There was no containment.
Two firefighters, one 26 and the other 31 years old, were critically injured while battling the blaze, according to the county’s Fire Authority, which didn’t provide details on how the injuries occurred.
They each suffered second- and third-degree burns over large portions of their bodies and were intubated at a hospital, officials said.
Helicopters dropping water and fire retardant were grounded for much of the afternoon because strong winds made it unsafe to fly.
However, a large air tanker and other aircraft began making drops again several hours before sunset.
Southern California Edison, the electricity supply company for much of the region, said later that its equipment may have sparked the wildfire.
In a report to the state Public Utilities Commission, the supplier said it was investigating whether its electrical equipment caused the blaze. The brief report said it appeared that a “lashing wire” that tied a telecommunications line to a support cable may have struck a 12,000-volt conducting line above it, and an investigation was under way.