Emergency Response

Winds knock out power, stoke small brush fires near toll roads

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4/30/14

Originally Posted Here in the Orange County Register.

Tree limbs and debris land on power lines, causing outages. Firefighters worked on blazes near 241 and 261 toll roads.

Orange County will remain under a red-flag fire warning through Thursday night as the area continues to be hammered by high winds, hot temperatures and dry conditions.

The warning means the county is ripe for brush fires, although no fires were reported Wednesday morning.

There were reports of scattered wind damage Wednesday throughout Orange County and at least one small brush fire.

The brush fire was reported at 12:35 p.m. near the Irvine Boulevard exit from the 261 toll road in Irvine, California High Patrol Officer John Latosquin said.

The fire is about 50 feet by 50 feet, and started out in a mulch pile on the east side of the toll road, said Capt. Shane Sherwood of the Orange County Fire Authority. No structures were threatened and the cause hadn’t been determined, he said.

The CHP shut down the northbound Irvine Boulevard exit from the 261 toll road just before 1 p.m. because of the fire. The closure was expected to remain in effect for 30 minutes.

TREE DAMAGES APARTMENTS

Also Wednesday, a 50-foot-tall pine tree fell through the roof of an apartment in the 13000 block of Allard Avenue in Garden Grove about 10:45 a.m.

No one was injured, but the fallen tree caused substantial damage to the unit on the upper floor of the building, according to the Garden Grove Fire Department. Neighboring apartments were temporarily evacuated, and a city building inspector was en route to assess the structure.

“Fortunately, there was no one inside the second-floor apartment (under the tree),” Garden Grove Fire Department Capt. Tony Acosta said.

Acosta’s crew evacuated the floor of the apartment building where the tree fell.

Acosta said he was glad that there were no power lines involved because that would have posed another danger.

A crew with Anaheim-based West Coast Arborists working a few blocks away moved its boom trucks to the site and started cutting the tree from the building with chainsaws.

Acosta said a building inspector for the city of Garden Grove would check the structure for safety once the tree was removed.

Anaheim police also closed South Lewis Street between East Ball Road and Cerritos Ave. about 8 a.m. Wednesday because of a leaning power pole likely damaged by wind.

No one was injured, but the fallen tree caused substantial damage to the unit on the upper floor of the building, according to the Garden Grove Fire Department. Neighboring apartments were temporarily evacuated, and a city building inspector was en route to assess the structure.

“Fortunately, there was no one inside the second-floor apartment (under the tree),” Garden Grove Fire Department Capt. Tony Acosta said.

Acosta’s crew evacuated the floor of the apartment building where the tree fell.

Acosta said he was glad that there were no power lines involved because that would have posed another danger.

A crew with Anaheim-based West Coast Arborists working a few blocks away moved its boom trucks to the site and started cutting the tree from the building with chainsaws.

Acosta said a building inspector for the city of Garden Grove would check the structure for safety once the tree was removed.

Anaheim police also closed South Lewis Street between East Ball Road and Cerritos Ave. about 8 a.m. Wednesday because of a leaning power pole likely damaged by wind.

Orange County sheriff’s deputies also responded to scattered reports of downed power lines and burglar alarms set off by wind.

Two power poles were snapped by high winds at the intersection of Tustin Street and Meats Avenue in Orange about 9:50 a.m., prompting police to direct traffic, Lt. Eric Rosauer said.

RIDES CLOSED

Knott’s Berry Farm remained open Wednesday, but three rides were closed because of the winds. They are Surfside Gliders, Woodstock’s Airmail and Sky Cabin. Visitors can call the guest relations phone number to find out any ride-closure updates: 714-220-5200.

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure opened as normal at 10 a.m. Wednesday. One ride, Golden Zephyr at Disney California Adventure, was closed because of the winds, said Kevin Rafferty Jr., a Disneyland Resort spokesman.

As a red-flag precaution, the Orange County Fire Authority is staffing a water tender, one bulldozer and a 22-person hand crew, officials said.

“It’s just a matter of time before a fire starts and gets well established,” said Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Fire Authority. “That’s fire weather.”

Firefighters were working alongside the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and other volunteers to patrol wildland areas looking for any signs of a brush fire, he said.

Officials are also asking anyone who spots suspicious activity in wildland areas to call 911.

SECOND DAY OF WINDS

Wednesday was the second day of punishing winds in Orange County. On Tuesday, high winds downed power lines and trees and closed streets.

Trees caught fire Tuesday morning in Placentia after winds knocked down power lines, said Concialdi. The fires threatened six homes before firefighters knocked them down within minutes, he said.

Later in the afternoon, a car fire ignited thick vegetation on the side of the northbound 405 near Jamboree Road in Irvine, temporarily shutting down several freeway lanes. A tree that toppled in the wind in Santa Ana blocked West Edinger Street on Tuesday afternoon, causing heavy traffic there as well.

Strong Santa Ana winds will continue Wednesday with gusts ranging from 40 to 60 mph over foothills and valleys, according to the National Weather Service.

Wind gusts of 90 mph are also possible in some wind-prone foothills and valleys. A brief lull in the winds is forecast for Wednesday evening, followed by another strong wind surge that will continue through Thursday.

Winds will diminish Thursday night and into Friday, but humidity will remain low inland.

The spate of dry, hot weather means that April will end with some of the highest temperatures near the coast since 2012, said the Weather Service.

RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES

Newport Beach reached 92 on Tuesday, shattering the record high of 86 set on April 29, 1921. It was 95 Tuesday in Laguna Beach, beating a record of 92 in 1981.

The highs today will reach 94 near the coast and will range from 96 to 101 inland.

Thursday will be sunny with highs around 90 near the coast to 97 inland.

Staff writers Sarah Tully, Claudia Koerner and Bruce Chambers contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 714-704-3795 or sschwebke@ocregister.com or Twitter: @thechalkoutline