ORANGE — Firefighters were holding a wind-driven mile-wide wildfire in check tonight at the Eastern (241) Toll Road near the Windy Ridge Toll Plaza and away from inhabited areas of Orange and Anaheim.
By 7:30 p.m., an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 acres had burned since the fire started near Sierra Peak in the Cleveland National Forest. Specific acreage was not available because heavy smoke prevented a helicopter carrying a global positioning system from entering some areas, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Stephen Miller said.
The fire had not been contained or controlled at 7 p.m.
“This is going to be an extended operation,” Miller said. “Definitely into tomorrow if not for several days.”
Driven southwest by winds that gusted to 64 mph at times, the flames twice jumped the 241, but firefighters extinguished the hot spots on the west side of the road.
No injuries or property damage had been reported, but evacuations were ordered or recommended for more than 1,500 homes.
“We’ve been really focused on getting that fire controlled along the 241 tollway,” Miller said. “If it gets across the 241, the homes that were evacuated are the homes that are going to be threatened.”
The blaze is named the Sierra Fire because of its origin, he said.
Police cars cruised Anaheim Hills near Rimwood and Burlwood drives about 11 a.m., using loudspeakers to tell residents: “This is the Anaheim Police Department. We are requiring a mandatory evacuation of this neighborhood.”
Residents were told to go to Villa Park High School to get more information and to learn when they could return.
Pam Boswell wanted to go home and rescue the family’s baby photographs and two kittens. Instead she and her husband, Ron, and their daughter Ashley, 14, waited out the danger at the Villa Park gymnasium.
“I have never experienced anything like this in my life,’’ said Boswell, 56, an administrative assistant. “It is scary. I mean, everything in our life is in our house.”
She was glad that her family replaced a shake roof with a tile one several years ago and that her neighbors had done the same.
“Thank goodness,’’ she said.
The California Highway Patrol closed the Eastern (241) Toll Road from the Riverside (91) Freeway to the Eastern (133) Toll Road until further notice. The 133 also is closed north of the 241.
More than 450 firefighters and 130 fire companies responded to the fires, some sent to protect structures that would be in danger if the flames jumped the 241 and burned through about two miles of vegetation to the residential areas of Orange, Anaheim Hills and Orange Park Acres.
Firefighters holding at the 241 were reinforced this afternoon by strike teams from cities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
A large number of the engines and firefighters stood guard on the 241, with water being sprayed on the flames whenever they approached the roadway. The response also included two helicopters, one equipped to drop water on the flames and the other outfitted to drop fire retardant.
The fire started in the Cleveland National Forest near Corona about 4:30 a.m. and crossed into Orange County about 6 a.m.
Weather conditions were good for the fire and bad for the firefighters.
The winds gusted to 33 mph in Fremont Canyon above Anaheim Hills, with humidity at 8 percent and the temperature at 71 degrees, about 5:30 p.m. The Santa Anas are expected to die down to 10 to 20 mph tonight and the humidity should average about 25 percent, the National Weather Service said. The winds will gust to 30 mph or more in the fire area for much of Tuesday and the humidity will fall below 10 percent, forecasters said.
A red-flag alert will stay in effect until at least 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Southern California Edison spokesman Steven Conroy said the fire burned beneath the utility’s transmission lines, but no service interruptions were reported.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. The remote area where it started has radio transmission antennas, but there was no indication that the antennas contributed to the fire.
The National Forest Service did a controlled burn about two weeks ago near where today’s blaze started, said Martin Esparza, an agency spokesman. The fire covered 10 acres and there was no sign of embers, but officials are investigating to determine whether it was somehow linked to the much-larger one.