The blaze, dubbed the Coastal Fire, broke out Wednesday afternoon between Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach near a water treatment facility, according to the Orange County Fire Department, and quickly grew in size.
At a news conference Thursday morning, firefighters said the blaze burned about 200 acres. An estimated containment number was not given.
While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Southern California Edison said it sent a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission to notify them of “circuit activity” when the fire was reported. It’s not clear if that means a power line was down, but a southern Laguna Beach resident told Eyewitness News the power was out just before she started hearing sirens, which appeared to be responding to the fire.
Around 900 homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders, according to Deputy Fire Chief TJ McGovern.
“We had wind, which is a normal wind condition for this area,” McGovern said. “Since it started at the bottom of the drain, it started running up the ravine and up the slope. Throwing some wind at it, and the terrain – the steepness of it, was a bad recipe.”
These orders affect homes south of Flying Cloud Drive and Pacific Island Drive to the intersection of Pacific Island Drive. The Crown Valley Parkway is under a voluntary evacuation warning.
Another mandatory evacuation order was issued 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. Meanwhile, an evacuation warning for the Balboa Nyes neighborhood (Portafina) has been lifted.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing California with a grant that will secure additional resources and financial support to help fight the fire, according to the governor’s office.
🔥 Coastal Fire Update 🔥
Currently the fire is on 200 acres and approximately 550 firefighters are assigned to the incident. Damage assessment teams are on site and inspect houses. Our investigative department has been on site since shortly after the fire broke out. ——> pic.twitter.com/HiekdvMWVv
— OCFA PIO (@OCFireAuthority) May 12, 2022
Orange County Fire Department Chief Brian Fennessy said although the number of buildings has not yet been fully determined, he believes about 20 homes were destroyed.
As firefighters worked to extinguish large hotspots on Wednesday, Fennessy said the high winds blew embers into attics, making it difficult for them to get through.
Coastal Fire: Several homes caught fire as Laguna Niguel fire exploded in size
“You have to remember that this fire was wind driven,” Fennessy said during a news conference Wednesday night. “We poured embers very deep into these ravines, many of them down into these palm trees. We had embers in our attics, through vents. The focus is on getting into those homes and really peeping into those attics to get into the vegetation to really make sure we don’t leave any hot embers in place.
McGovern said a firefighter was injured and taken to hospital on Wednesday. Full details of her condition have not been released, but the firefighter is listed in stable condition.
Meanwhile, Elaine Gennawey, the mayor of Laguna Niguel, said the city’s water district has issued an alert urging residents to reduce water use.
An evacuation center for those seeking help was also set up.
Area residents can visit the Crown Valley Community Center at 29751 Crown Valley Parkway for assistance. The Orange County Emergency Operations Center has also established a public information hotline to answer questions from residents. You can reach her at 714-628-7085.
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