Authorities have destroyed 20 high-rise homes and evacuated hundreds of people, according to authorities, fighting a fast-moving wildfire outside Los Angle. Already called Coastal Fire, the blaze broke out in the thicket between Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach just before 3pm local time on Wednesday and quickly spread to residential areas..
Orange County Fire Department Commissioner Shane Sherwood said at a press conference on Thursday evening that the fire had engulfed 200 acres and had been extinguished by 15 percent.
Two firefighters were hospitalized with injuries and then released, Sherwood said. No other injuries or deaths were reported.
In addition to the destroyed homes, Sherwood said 11 other buildings were damaged in the fire. Virgil Asuncion, director of police services for the city of Laguna Niguel, said Thursday evening that about 900 Laguna Niguel residents are currently under evacuation orders.
“We know we lost our home,” Asuncion said. “It is devastating and has a profound impact on the entire community. We are here to support you and support the city.”
Sherwood said on Thursday evening officials said they were still investigating the cause of the fire, but Edison, Southern California, told state officials that the fire exploded and there was “tourism” in the area.
Officials said the blaze started as a 50-by-50-foot vegetation fire on Wednesday afternoon, but grew rapidly thanks to sea breezes and spread to a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A home worth at least $5 million was burned. One was a mansion listed for $10 million.
Officials said the area’s steep terrain made it difficult to operate hose lines and deploy ground crews where needed. Fixed-wing planes dropping flame retardants and helicopters dropping water were being used.
Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said, “The entire area is currently focusing on this fire to ensure we have all the fire trucks capable of putting it out.”
Orange County Fire Commissioner Brian Fennessy said at a press conference on Wednesday night, “Unfortunately, I think this is something we will be experiencing over the next few weeks or years. The vegetation is so dry that it doesn’t take much time. The fire runs and burns very quickly. .”
Students at Laguna Beach High School were evacuated from after-school activities on Wednesday.
Earlier Wednesday, a house reported that a cat had been rescued. Fire officials also reported that they heard what they believe was an explosion of ammunition in one of the houses where the fire broke out.
A video shared on social media showed a huge plume of smoke.