Firefighter critically burned during Silverado Fire released from hospital

Two firefighters were severely burned October 26, 2020 on the Southern California wildfire

Dylan Van Iwaarden released from hospital
Dylan Van Iwaarden was released from hospital after being burned on the Silverado Fire. Screengrab from CBS Los Angeles video.

One of the two firefighters that were burned on the Silverado Fire in Orange County, California was released from the hospital Wednesday after spending 114 days in the Burn Center at Orange County Global Medical Center. Dylan Van Iwaarden was severely burned October 26 while working on an Orange County Fire Authority hand crew suppressing the blaze.

Since then he has battled for his life, had 17 surgeries, was in a medically induced coma, intubated, and endured endless procedures. Dylan is now headed to his next phase of recovery at the rehabilitation unit of UC Irvine Medical Center.

Another firefighter on the crew, Phi Le, was also burned during the incident. Both firefighters suffered severe second and third degree burns. The Orange County Register reports that Le spent time in a burn center but has been discharged and is continuing his rehabilitation from home as of Wednesday.

The report on the incident said the crew was firing out when a spot fire ignited below the crew. They escaped downhill to a dozer line but five crew members were impacted by radiant and convective heat, reporting singed hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes while stumbling out of the way of the spot fire’s path. Three others, the report said, “were impacted significantly”.

Officials report 31 structures were destroyed in the Bond Fire in SoCal

The fire blackened 6,686 acres

Bond Fire Dec. 3, 2020
3-D map showing the perimeters of the Silverado and Bond Fires, looking west.

The spread of the 6,686-acre Bond Fire in Southern California east of Irvine has been stopped for several days but there are still two hand crews and 15 fire engines assigned. Officials report that 31 structures were destroyed and $14.4 million has been spent on suppression since it started December 2, 2020.

The fire burned very close to numerous homes in Silverado Canyon, as well as the Orange County/U.S. Forest Service fire station. Judging from the video below and the vegetation seen in the satellite photos, there may have been an interesting fire fight at the station.

Silverado Fire Station proximity to the Bond Fire
Silverado Fire Station proximity to the Bond Fire. 3-D image looking west. Fire Mapped Dec. 3, 2020. Satellite photo, May 2, 2019.
Silverado Fire Station
Silverado Fire Station, satellite photo May 2, 2019

Today Fire Photo Girl posted some excellent video she shot during the early hours of the fire.

Report released on burnover of firefighters on Silverado Fire

Two firefighters are still in critical condition in Orange County, California

Silverado Fire spot fires burnover firefighters injured

The two firefighters that suffered very serious injuries while battling the Silverado Fire are still in critical condition, on ventilators, and in induced comas. However, they have survived multiple surgeries and are improving, but they have a long and tough road ahead.

They are members of a 17-person Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) hand crew that was assigned to the fire east of Irvine, California on October 26, 2020 when the fire burned over their location. In addition to the two firefighters still hospitalized, another suffered radiant heat injuries and other firefighters had superficial heat injuries.

The OCFA has released an Informational Summary Report, or Green Sheet, about the incident.

The burnover occurred at about noon during a Red Flag Warning for strong offshore winds, low humidity, and dry fuels. The weather conditions at the time were 60 degrees, 8 percent relative humidity, and winds out of the north-northeast at 16 mph with gusts to 42 mph. The fire was burning in grass and brush, with live fuel moistures for the chamise and sage at or below the critical levels.

Map, Silverado Fire burnover October 26, 2020
Map, Silverado Fire burnover October 26, 2020. OCFA.

Very briefly, the firefighters were along an indirect mid-slope dozer line with fire below and unburned vegetation on both sides. They were firing out below the  line, igniting with drip torches until the wind kept blowing out the flames on the wicks, so they switched to using fusees. Several spot fires occurred on the slope above the dozer line which were suppressed by the crew. Another spot fire which grew rapidly about 80 feet above the line was attacked by eight firefighters with hand tools and three engine crew members with a fire hose.

Shortly thereafter, a second rapidly spreading spot fire started below and upwind of the eleven firefighters. They escaped from the area as best they could back down to the dozer line.

Escape routes Silverado Fire

Five hand crew members were impacted by radiant and convective heat, reporting singed hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes while stumbling out of the way of the second spot fire’s path. The remaining three hand crew members, according to the report, “were impacted significantly”.

The two most seriously injured personnel were transported with paramedics in an engine and a hand crew vehicle to Orange County Global Medical Center, arriving at 12:32 p.m. and 12:57 p.m.

There was no mention in the report of fire shelters, either being carried or deployed by the firefighters. We have unconfirmed information that they had fire shelters but there wasn’t enough time to deploy them.

The Silverado Fire burned 12,466 acres and destroyed 5 structures.

In 2007 in Orange County 12 firefighters on the Santiago Fire were entrapped and deployed fire shelters, but there were no serious injuries.

Silverado Fire map, October 28, 2020.
Silverado Fire map, October 28, 2020.

Overwhelming support for two firefighters injured at Silverado Fire in Southern California

How you can help

ICP for Silverado & Blue Ridge Fires
Incident Command Post for the Silverado & Blue Ridge Fires Oct. 29, 2020, by OCFA.

The fire family at Orange County Fire Authority is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that people in the community are demonstrating for the two injured firefighters. The department has received numerous requests to help the injured men.

The OCFA Hand Crew Firefighters suffered severe burns on Monday, October 26 while battling the Silverado Fire. They remain intubated in critical condition with second and third degree burns over 50-65% of their bodies. Out of respect of the wishes of both families, no additional details are currently being shared on the condition of their sons.

For those who wish to help, there are two ways to make a monetary donation to support the costs associated with the long healing process of these burn victims, and to support their families:

Wildland Firefighter Foundation. You can choose “yes” to dedicate the donation as a gift to someone, then, for example, you can specify the two firefighters critically injured at the Silverado Fire.

Fallen Firefighters Relief Fund. Created October 28, 2020 by Orange County Local 3631 as a fundraiser “in support of two firefighters critically injured while protecting our community battling the Silverado Fire.”

If you would like to send cards or letters to support the two men and their families, here is the address:

Attn: Injured OCFA Hand Crew Firefighters
1 Fire Authority Road
Irvine, CA 92602

Orange County’s Silverado Fire similar to 2007 Santiago Fire

The two Southern California fires had comparable footprints after burning for two days, and there are other similarities

Silverado and Santiago Fires
Silverado and Santiago Fires

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.

Santiago Fire, October, 2007
Santiago Fire, October, 2007. From the After Action Report.
Silverado Fire map, October 28, 2020.
Silverado Fire map, October 28, 2020.

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.

Two fires in Orange County, Calif. have burned over 27,000 acres

Update on the Blue Ridge and Silverado fires

Updated October 29, 2020   |    8:16 a.m. PDT

The map shows the perimeters of the Blue Ridge and Silverado Fires, mapped between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m. PDT Oct. 28, 2020. You can zoom in and move around on the map.

Evacuation updates from the Orange County Fire Authority at about 4 p.m. October 28:

Blue Ridge Fire:
•All evacuation orders and warnings related to the Blue Ridge Fire have been lifted effective immediately.

Silverado Fire:
•All evacuation orders are lifted in the City of Irvine
•Some evacuation zones still remain in place for the City of Lake Forest
•Some evacuation zones are lifted for unincorporated areas of Orange County near El Toro Road and Valley Vista

Refer to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department interactive evacuation map for details.

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.

October 28, 2020   |    11:16 a.m. PDT

Map of Blue Ridge and Silverado Fires
Map of Blue Ridge and Silverado Fires Oct 28, 2020

On Tuesday firefighters working on the two large wildfires in Orange County California had their hands full doing their best to contain the Silverado and Blue Ridge Fires.

Strong winds pushed the Blue Ridge Fire west where it approached Gas County Road on the east side of Yorba Linda, and also to the north toward Chino Hills and Soquel Canyon Parkway. As the wind direction shifted during the day firefighters on the east side battled, mostly successfully, to keep it from crossing Highway 71 just north of Highway 91.

The Silverado Fire near Irvine has remained west and south of Santiago Canyon Road. Firefighters conducted a firing operation overnight on the southeast side of the fire.

Tuesday night after 11 p.m. the wind decreased substantially and there was very little significant spread of either fire the rest of the night.

The two fires are being managed under one organization by CAL FIRE Incident Management Team 6 that assumed command at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department website has the latest information about evacuations.

The latest mapping shows the Silverado Fire at 13,354 acres and the Blue Ridge Fire at 14,334 acres.

The map below shows heat detected by an aircraft on the Blue Ridge Fire in Orange, County, California at 10 p.m. PDT Oct. 27, 2020. Most of the vegetation is light, such as grass or brush, and cools a few hours after burning. The fire perimeter is not shown. Yellow is scattered heat, red is isolated heat, and the small brown area is intense heat. You can zoom in and move around on the map.

Status of the two injured firefighters

The two firefighters that were seriously injured Monday on the Silverado Fire, suffering second and third degree burns, are still in critical condition. Their names have not been released. The firefighters were intubated when they were admitted to the hospital, but they are still fighting, Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Finnessy said Wednesday morning.

I asked the Chief if there was an address to which we could send cards or letters to the firefighters and their families.

“The families would be so grateful to receive cards or letters,” the Chief said. “They are just now realizing how the fire and aviation family comes together during times like this.”

Here is the address:

Attn: Injured OCFA Hand Crew Firefighters
1 Fire Authority Road
Irvine, CA 92602

Let’s flood them with kindness, cards, and letters.