There are similarities between the Silverado Fire that has been burning since Monday in Orange County, California, and the Santiago Fire of 2007.
- They started near the intersection of Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads.
- They both started in late October, the 21st and 26th.
- After spreading for two days, their footprints were similar.
- They burned with a Santa Ana wind during drought conditions.
- Firefighters were entrapped on both fires. Two suffered serious burns and are still hospitalized from the Silverado Fire. On the Santiago Fire twelve had to deploy fire shelters for protection from the flames, but there were no injuries.
While the Santiago Fire was burning there were nine other ongoing major fires which set up a competition for firefighting resources. The spread of this year’s Silverado Fire was essentially stopped after two days, but in 2007 there were not enough hand crews, engines, air tankers, and helicopters to keep it from crossing Santiago Canyon Road on day three when the wind shifted to come out of the west. After that, it got into steeper slopes with heavier vegetation in the Cleveland National Forest, and eventually burned twice as much as the Silverado Fire, 28,517 acres (as of Oct. 29, 2020) vs. 13,390 acres.
The causes appear to be very different. An arsonist used an accelerant to start the Santiago Fire in two places. In spite of an Investigation Task force consisting of 160 persons from the Orange County Fire Authority, FBI, ATF, and the Sheriff’s Department, and a $250,000 reward, an arrest was never made.
Southern California Edison said it is investigating whether electrical equipment may have caused the Silverado fire. The company reported to the state Public Utilities Commission that a “lashing wire” attached to a third-party telecommunications line may have struck a primary conductor.
The 136-page After Action Report for the Santiago Fire is available on Orange County’s website.