Silverado Fire Affects Sage Hill Community

The threat of the Silverado Fire caused Sage Hill community members to be evacuated from their homes and the school.


Riya Gupta, Online Editor-in-Chief

On Oct. 26, a fire broke out in Irvine at 6:52 a.m. As the fire spread at a rapid pace, Orange County officials mandated that approximately 90,000 Irvine residents would have to evacuate their homes.

By the time the evacuation order was issued, the school day at Sage Hill had already begun. Oct. 26 also happened to be the day when the new cycle of hybrid learning began and when Spirit Week started. These events were highly anticipated by students. However, the excitement turned to fear and stress as many students left the classroom or dropped from Zoom calls after hearing that they had to evacuate.

“I was driving to school and saw the smoke nearby, but didn’t really think anything about it. Once we got to school, I was told my family was evacuated in my A block class,” said junior Mei-Ling Patragnoni. 

The fires continued to spread with no containment, burning over 7,000 acres that day alone. Another fire, the Blue Ridge fire, broke out later in Yorba Linda. Although the fires remained in these respective areas, the air quality was poor throughout Orange County. 

As the air quality worsened and the fires continued to spread, Sage Hill took action.

“The air quality on campus has not improved and, as a result, I have decided to cancel all classes (both in-person and distance) effective immediately,” wrote Ms. Merz in an email sent out at 11:35 a.m. that day. 

After school was cancelled, students were picked up or drove away from school. Some went back to their own homes, but others had to temporarily live somewhere else due to the evacuation orders.

“I went to live in a hotel for two nights. It was definitely an emotional rollercoaster as the fire got closer to my house,” said Patragnoni. 

Ms. Merz addressed the evacuees in an email sent at 3 p.m. the same day.

“My heart goes out to all community members who have been affected by this situation. When parents came to pick up their students today, a number of cars were packed full of belongings because of the widespread evacuation orders,” Ms. Merz wrote.

Classes were back in session the next day, but everyone was in the distance learning modality. Another noticeable change – some students were in hotel rooms rather than in their own homes. It was a time of turmoil for Irvine residents and the Sage Hill community, but the events brought the community together. 

“I am impressed by the resiliency and spirit of our Sage Hill students, employees and families, especially in the midst of unknown and scary circumstances,” Ms. Merz wrote in the weekly Sunday email. 

As the fires started to be contained, the evacuation orders were lifted and highways were reopened. By Thursday morning, all evacuation orders had been lifted. Firefighters continued to fight the fires, two of them injured and in critical condition. 

Students who had opted for the in-person modality had the option to stay in distance learning for the remainder of the week. All who had chosen in-person were back on campus on Monday the following week. Spirit Week was postponed and will take place in the near future. The Sage Hill community is grateful that each member is now safe.