IRVINE – A fire that chewed through 77 acres of dry vegetation in the hills northeast of Irvine is expected to be fully contained by 6 p.m. Saturday, officials said.
The blaze, burning south of the interchange between the two forks of Orange County’s eastern tollways, is believed to have been caused by a hot piece of metal that somehow ejected from the catalytic converter of a car.
The fire caused in one minor heat-related injury to a firefighter, and was 80 percent contained Saturday afternoon, said Ed Fleming, battalion chief for the Orange County Fire Authority.
The blaze broke out about 5:20 p.m. Sunday near the area where the Eastern Transportation Corridor’s two tollways — highways 241 and 261 — converge in unincorporated territory adjacent to Irvine and Orange, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.
Firefighters have halted the fire’s forward progression, and the fire was not expected to grow in size, Fleming said.
Pieces of a catalytic converter from a car on Highway 261 were recovered and are believed to have sparked the fire, Fleming said.
“The catalytic converter part of the muffler ejected a hot piece of metal and that’s what caused the fire,” he said.
Five fire engines, three hand crews and additional support apparatus and personnel were working Saturday to contain the blaze, according to Fleming.
Ironically, the blaze briefly threatened the Emergency Operations Center, which is staffed by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Some aircraft sprayed the land surrounding the dispatch center with fire retardant.
No evacuations were needed, and no homes were threatened.
Although both directions of both tollways remain open to traffic, the California Highway Patrol reports one lane of the 261 tollway is blocked by fire trucks.