Smoke looms over CSUF as Canyon Fire 2 burns through Anaheim Hills

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Evacuation orders were in place for some Anaheim Hills residents and shelters had been set up.

Fires in California's wine country, an area in the north of the state, broke out almost simultaneously and then exploded overnight, sending residents fleeing as embers rained down and flames raged around them. As of about 10:30 a.m., the wind-driven brush fire was 25 acres in extent. On Tuesday, authorities were looking to build containment lines on the eastern edge to keep the fire from spreading into the Cleveland National Forest.

At least four of the five most destructive bushfires in the state's recent history occurred in October, notably the 1991 Oakland Hills "firestorm" which claimed 25 lives and destroyed nearly 3000 buildings. It raced up a ridge and hit tract homes at the top of a hill. "We piled like 25 kids from Running Springs into our vehicle, just got them away". He said he's lived in the area for years and knows how fierce the winds can get.

"The heat, the lack of humidity and the winds are all driving a very unsafe situation and making it worse", Mr Brown said.

Three elementary schools - Running Springs, Anaheim Hills and Canyon Rim - in the Orange Unified School District were evacuated Monday, with students bused to Canyon High School. One homeowner stood on Via El Estribo and just watched as his home burned before his eyes.

Firefighters are battling several wind-whipped fires that forced evacuations of rural neighborhoods in Northern California.

The blaze is being fought by more than 1,000 firefighters and several helicopters and airplanes brought in to help. The firefighter was airlifted to UCI Medical Center and was expected to be OK.

The 241 Toll Road remains closed until further notice, and dozens of schools in the area remain closed Tuesday.

Eastbound lanes of the Riverside Freeway were closed at 11:50 Imperial Highway because of the smoke and reduced visibility, Caltrans spokeswoman Yvonne Washington said.

The fire began late Monday morning in Anaheim, Calif., and moved quickly due to strong Santa Ana winds, which blow from the northeast towards the coast. The winds were decreasing in strength in the evening, and humidity in the area was expected to increase overnight.

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning through this morning for far Inland Orange County with northeast winds expected to reach 15 to 25 miles per hour and gusts to be around 35 miles per hour.

REUTERS/ Kyle GrillotThe Canyon Fire burns hillsides above houses in Corona, California.