By Martin Henderson
Temperatures were cooler Tuesday as firefighters continued to battle a feisty mulch fire in Baker Canyon. They also reached 100 percent containment, but don't expect full control until Thursday.
Orange County Fire Authority officials on Tuesday also downgraded the size of the blaze, from 50 acres to 40, in Baker Canyon.
The county's Hazardous Materials unit was on scene monitoring the smoke in the area. According to Capt. Steve Concialdi, the dissipated smoke is harmless to the general public but in the high concentrations at the site was dangerous to firefighters. HAZMAT recommended firefighters stay upwind and out of the smoke; firefighters wore respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, although even those weren't appropriate for prolonged periods in the smoke.
Firefighters used excavators to break up the mulch, douse it with water, then used bulldozers to move it, and douse it again.
"This is a really stubborn, deep-seated fire," Concialdi said.
Firefighters will again work through the night to make sure it doesn't spark a spot fire, as it did on Sunday.
The blaze continues to burn inside large piles of mulch on site of Aguinaga Green, a green waste recycling facility a couple of miles from Irvine Lake.
At its peak, 270 firefighters battled the blaze, a total that will be dramatically decreased on Wednesday "because we're anticipating the rain coming in," Concialdi said.
Also in the area, a 10-inch water main that runs parallel to Silverado Canyon ruptured and is being repaired by the Irvine Ranch Water District. Repairs aren't expected to be completed until 10 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday.
Silverado Canyon Road is down to one lane.
The fire was 80 percent contained by Tuesday morning.
According to the National Weather Service in San Diego, there is a 20 percent chance of rain tonight with a low of 51. The high temperature Tuesday was 79 degrees. There is a 60 percent chance of rain on Wednesday afternoon.
The fire was reported Sunday, 10:10 a.m., began at the recycling facility's property at 27910 Baker Canyon Road, near Black Star Canyon Road. What sparked the fire was under investigation.
The fire then spread into wild vegetation in the Santa Ana Mountains and damaged a barn.
Crews in water-dropping helicopters and fixed wing aircraft have
assisted in the firefighting effort.
A voluntary evacuation order was issued for residents of six Baker Canyon homes and a nearby mobile home park, and 21 residents left their homes, but OCFA officials lifted the order at 6 p.m. Monday.
Concialdi said one firefighter suffered a minor ankle injury battling the fire Sunday.—City News Service contributed to this report