Gusty Santa Ana winds batter Catalina Island, drive wildfire in Orange County

Strong Santa Ana winds were battering boats anchored off of Catalina and driving a fast-moving brush fire in Orange County Monday morning.

In Avalon, winds gusting up to 45 mph produced large waves that pounded boats offshore. As of 11 a.m., crews had already rescued several people from vessels anchored outside the harbor, according to the Avalon Harbor Patrol

Several of those boats have since washed ashore, possibly totaling them, said Mike, who answered the Harbor Patrol’s phone line but did not provide his last name.

“In conditions such as this, life comes first,” according to Mike, who said nobody has been injured so far.

A warning about the wind and waves was expected to last at least until 3 p.m. this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Those winds combined with dangerously low humidity were also driving a wildfire that raced across terrain in Orange County’s Santiago Canyon area Monday morning.

The blaze forced mandatory evacuations in the Orchard Hills area, threatening structures and blocking key roadways through the region.

The blaze erupted at 6:47 a.m. in the area of Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads, and within an hour it had scorched roughly 50 acres.

The fire was estimated at about 200 acres by 9:30 a.m. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for the Orchard Hills community north of Irvine Boulevard from Bake Parkway to Jamboree Road.

The evacuation order affected roughly 60,000 people, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.

Although structures were reported to be threatened and there were some reports of buildings already burned, fire authorities had not yet confirmed any structural damage. There were no reports of any injuries.

The fire was sending a major plume of smoke over the entire region, creating unhealthy air across a wide area. The Orange County Health Care Agency urged residents in affected areas to stay indoors, limit outdoor activity, keep windows and doors closed and run air conditions to filter the air.

City News Service and staff writer Valerie Osier contributed to this report.

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