What started as a small brush fire in the Orange County city of Laguna Niguel Wednesday quickly grew to a 200-acre disaster that had swallowed at least 20 homes by Thursday morning. Residences and a luxury resort in the area have been evacuated.
About 100 homes were potentially in the path of the Coastal fire, Orange County Sheriff’s Capt. Virgil Asuncion told the Orange County Register. Residents were forced to flee multi-million dollar houses on Coronado Pointe Drive, Vista Court, and Via Las Rosa. The Ranch golf course and resort was also evacuated, and people living near Moulton Meadows and Balbo Nyes in Laguna Beach have been warned that they may have to leave at a moment’s notice.
On Thursday night, the city of Laguna Niguel issued a mandatory evacuation order for the area north of the intersection of Flying Cloud Drive and Pacific Island Drive, to the intersection of Highlands Avenue and Pacific Island Drive.
The fire was reported at 2:44 p.m. in Aliso Woods Canyon and swept rapidly up steep terrain, burning roughly three acres as of 3:30 p.m., Orange County Fire Capt. Sean Doran told the Register. By about 4:45 p.m., flames had crossed an access road and began moving toward homes. The fire had consumed about 200 acres by around 7:30 p.m.
Laguna Beach resident Jennifer McCoy told CNN she first noticed smoke coming from neighboring Laguna Niguel at around 4:15 p.m. Within two hours, the smoke clouds had grown ominously.
“I walked down to the shopping center below and the smoke grew maybe two to three times what it was before,” McCoy said.
Orange County Fire Authority chief Brian Fennessy told the network that brush fires like Wednesday’s initial blaze have not always been such a cause for alarm, but that we’d better get used to it.
“The fuel beds in this county, throughout Southern California, throughout the West, are so dry that a fire like this is going to be more commonplace,” he said.
One firefighter has been injured battling back the flames, OCFA Assistant Fire Chief TJ McGovern said in a news conference Thursday, CBS News reports.
“That firefighter was on the line, that firefighter was assessed and taken to a local hospital pending further evaluation,” he said.
— OCFA PIO (@OCFireAuthority) May 12, 2022
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