UPDATE: This article was updated on Oct. 12 at 3:26 p.m. to reflect the most current information.
UPDATE: This article was updated on Oct. 10 at 2:54 p.m.
UPDATE: This article was updated on Oct. 9 at 5:36 p.m.
Cal State Fullerton watched arms of smoke reach over the 57 Freeway as a fire burned through over 9,000 acres in Anaheim Hills and destroyed 23 structures.
The fire prompted several evacuations in Anaheim Hills, Orange Park Acres and North Tustin, with evacuation centers set up in the East Anaheim Community Center, Downtown Community Center and El Modena High School in Orange.
University Police Capt. Scot Willey indicated no cause for alarm for CSUF, but University Police will be watching the fire, which as of 3 p.m., has seen 60 percent containment, closely. Anaheim Fire and Rescue expects the fire to be fully contained by Oct. 14.
“I don’t think the fire itself would be reaching us. I think it has to go through a whole lot of homes and a couple miles there to do that. However, I think that when you’re looking at the wind and the winds carrying embers and things like that, that’s something that we’ll keep an eye on throughout the day,” Willey said.
Orange County Emergency Center activated to a Level 2 as of 12:30 p.m., Willey said.
As the blaze made quick work of the brush throughout Anaheim Hills, hillside residents who hadn’t yet evacuated fought the clock as flames licked the forestry at their back.
Anaheim Hills resident Ed Robles has lived on Santiago Canyon Road since 1960. Having seen at least nine fires during his time on the property, Robles was quick to wet his fences as a precaution while ash and ember fell from the thick, sunlit clouds of smoke above his home.
However, Robles said he has no intentions of evacuating.
“It would take a herd of elephants to get me off this property,” Robles said. “I’ve been here too long.”
Anaheim Hills resident Don Godfrey and his family fled to the Anaheim Downtown Community Center as soon as their day began.
“This morning I started smelling smoke and started watching the news,” Godfrey said. “As a precaution, I packed a couple backpacks for a change of clothing and important documents.”
Godfrey said the nearby area was already smothered in smoke by then.
“(My stepson) opened his window and heard the helicopters announce to evacuate,” Godfrey said. “It was getting pretty dark.”
In a press conference, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait called on Anaheim residents to take the fire seriously and evacuate when asked.
“I’m asking neighbors to help neighbors. We’ve seen great examples of that already. Especially elderly people in your neighborhood, make sure that they know,” Tait said. “Get out of the path of this fire. It’s moving fast.”
Handling compromised air quality on campus
Richard Boucher, interim director and chief staff physician for CSUF Health Services, said smoke from the nearby fire seems to be coming toward Fullerton after shifts in the wind and recommended people stay indoors as much as possible to avoid the particulate matter.
“Does that mean you can’t go from class to class? Of course you can,” Boucher said. “Going for a run, doing any type of sports that would require you to really get out there and exert yourself, you want to avoid that.”
While Boucher said there should not be much of an issue overall with short-term exposure to the smokey air, people with pulmonary problems like asthma, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as those in the geriatric population, should be especially cautious.
“It’s not that you can’t travel around, it’s just that if you can avoid being outside, avoid it,” Boucher said. “I think the main thing is to not exercise in it. Anytime you exercise you’re breathing heavier, you’re bringing all that in.”
God bless the firefighters really. It’s a tough job to wear all that equipment in the heat and be working. Richard Boucher, Interim Director and Chief Staff Physician for CSUF Health Services
Boucher said the Student Health Center has not seen an increase in visits due to the fire as far as he is aware, but the center does provide checkups by physicians or nurse practitioners and can supply medications, inhalers and non-anabolic steroids like Prednisone to help those who are struggling with poor air quality.
“If someone came in so bad off, we can start oxygen. We can give them meds, but we’d probably call the paramedics,” Boucher said. “We have paramedics in Station 5 right across the street. So far, we haven’t had to do that from my understanding.”
Though air quality in Fullerton is affected by the particulate matter, Boucher said it’s unlikely that the fire will jump over the freeway and his concerns lie more with those in Anaheim who have both their health and their belongings at risk.
“God bless the firefighters really,” Boucher said. “It’s a tough job to wear all that equipment in the heat and be working.”
This report will be updated as more information becomes available.