Orange County Fire Authority Chief: Firefighters are “Fighting for Their Lives”

(City of Irvine, YouTube)

Two in critical condition after burnover

Alma Fausto and Jonah Valdez, The Orange County Register


Two firefighters critically burned on Monday while battling the Silverado fire are “fighting for their lives,” Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said Tuesday, Oct 27.

The two men, ages 26 and 31, were part of a hand crew working near where the fire started, the chief said. They both had second and third-degree burns.

Though authorities would not release any details as to what led to the two being critically injured, the chief said an accident review team from the state was requested to investigate the incident, which he referred to as a “burnover.”

A burnover is when flames overtake firefighters or their equipment, and there is no opportunity for an escape to safety.

Wildland firefighters are trained to deploy fire shelters, a tarp-like device, as a last resort during a burnover, to help temporarily shield them from flames. It was not immediately clear whether the two critically injured firefighters deployed their shelters during the incident.

Fennessy said both the firefighters had been with the Orange County Fire Authority for less than one year. One of the men had burns on 65% of his body while the other had burns on 50%, the chief said.

“Both of these firefighters, I know them personally. They’re extremely strong,” Fennessy told reporters at a news conference.

“It’s tough for any firefighter, certainly any fire chief, to feel this helpless when you’ve got part of our fire family fighting for their lives,” he said.

Three other firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting the fast-moving Silverado fire, Fennessy said, but they all were treated and released.

By Tuesday night, the Silverado fire had grown to 13,354 acres.

The fire was first reported at Santiago and Silverado Canyon roads just before 7 a.m. on Monday and grew quickly with the strong gusts of wind that passed through the region most of Monday. Soon after, neighborhoods in Irvine were ordered to evacuate, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes. Some of the evacuations were lifted Tuesday afternoon, while others went into effect.


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