Zachary Dupre, who has lived on Silverado Canyon Road for 45 years, was among the 20 or so evacuees waiting in a parking lot at Santiago Canyon College, just along Chapman Avenue from the canyon, Thursday morning, Dec. 3.
They were awaiting any word on the Bond fire, powered by Santa Ana winds and affecting their futures.
Dupre remembers the canyon fire of 2007 when he and others evacuated and spent two weeks living in something of an evacuees’ village in an Albertsons parking lot in Orange. They called it “Camp Silverado.”
“This one is the real McCoy,” said Dupre, sitting in his Hyundai Tucson. “I saw the flames jumping the road. It’s scary. It wasn’t scary before.”
Dupre learned of the fire via his ham radio. He is among the many canyon residents who are part of a fire-watch group.
“Then the radios went blank,” he said. “The repeater burned down or something, so we didn’t know what was going on.”
A neighbor knocked on his door and said it was time to leave. Dupre grabbed a couple pairs of shorts and a toothbrush and headed to Santiago Canyon College.
“When I was driving out,” he said, “the fire already crossed the main road. It was on the other side of it, and it already came down the hill.
“Usually fire goes up the hill. It doesn’t come down. That’s an old legend up there – that we never burn because there’s an updraft. Every breeze came this time. It was going everywhere.”
Flames were on both sides of the road.
“I could feel my car heating up as I was driving through it,” he said. “I’ve never experienced that before. I was thinking about the tires maybe burning.”
Mick and Janet Coughlin, Silverado residents for 30 years and also Camp Silverado citizens in ‘07, knew when they went to bed Wednesday night that there was a house fire in the canyon.
“The glow faded away,” Janet said, “and we thought, ‘Oh, good, it’s blowing the other direction.’”
“We’ve been up there so long,” Mick said, “and we know the Santa Anas pretty well – that with the wind at our back and the glow gone, we figured the fire was moving away from us.”
The Couglins went to sleep around 1:30. Mick got up at 7 to get ready to go to work, and took a look outside.
“And he comes running back in the house,” Janet said, “and he said, ‘We’ve got to get going. There’s a fire down the hill.’”
They gathered what they could, including their dog, and started the drive to the temporary evacuation center at the college.
“There were spots so smoky,” she said, “that you couldn’t see.”
Jake Tedford moved to the canyon five years ago. He was more concerned about floods and landslides than fires when he and his wife purchased his house that was built 48 years ago.
The power to their home was out Wednesday night, so the Tedfords slept in their camper. Neighbors alerted them that there was a fire.
“So we decided if we wanted to stay or go or stay or go,” Tedford said. “And then shortly afterward the wind shifted up canyon. And then a sheriff (deputy) came by and told us to leave.”
The Red Cross was set up in the Santiago Canyon College parking lot to give evacuees what they would need, including arranging for hotel stays that would be paid for by the agency.
Evacuees who gathered at Santiago Canyon glanced every few seconds toward the east to watch the smoke and monitor the direction it was headed.
A column of black smoke arose for a few seconds.
“That’s a structure fire,” somebody said. “Maybe a car.”
Mick Coughlin already had contacted his insurance company that quickly established temporary residence for him and Janet at a nearby hotel. He wondered what was happening in the canyon.
“Even if our house is still there,” Mick said, “our canyon is going to be totally changed until the vegetation grows back in a couple of years. Driving out there today, it was just a black moonscape where there used to be trees and vegetation for as long as we’ve been there.”
Source: Orange County Register