A massive fire near Laguna Beach destroyed 20 homes and forced 900 residents to evacuate

Crews are battling a rapidly spreading wildfire outside Los Angeles that authorities said have destroyed 20 expensive homes and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate. The fire, actually called coastal fire, broke out in a forest between the cities of Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach just before 3 p.m. local time on Wednesday and quickly spread to residential areas, CBS Los Angeles reports.

The fire has covered 200 acres and is 15 percent contained, Shane Sherwood, chief of the Orange County Fire Department, said during a news conference Thursday night.

Sherwood said two firefighters were taken to hospital with injuries and were discharged from the hospital. No other injuries or deaths were reported.

Crews extinguish the flames from the coastal fire on Thursday, May 12, 2022.

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In addition to the destroyed homes, Sherwood said, 11 homes were injured in the fire. An estimated 900 residents of Laguna Niguel are currently under evacuation orders, Virgil Asuncion, chief of police services for the city of Laguna Niguel, said Thursday night.

“We know we’ve lost some homes,” Asuncion said. “This is devastating and has major impacts on our entire community. We are here to support you and the city.”

Sherwood said Thursday evening that officials were still investigating the cause of the fire, but Southern California Edison revealed that it had notified state officials of “circular activity” in the area where the fire broke out when it broke out.

Officials said the flames began as a 50-by-50-foot vegetal blaze Wednesday afternoon, but quickly grew, aided by ocean winds, and advanced toward the hilly areas overlooking the Pacific Ocean. At least five multi-million dollar homes were burned. One of them was a listed mansion for $10 million.

California Wildfires
Firefighters work to put out flames during a wildfire on May 11, 2022, in Laguna Niguel, California.

Marcio J. Sanchez / AP

Officials said the area’s steep terrain makes it difficult to operate the hose lines and get ground crews where they need to be. Fixed-wing aircraft were used to shoot down fires and helicopters to drop water.

“We’ve focused the entire area on this fire at the moment to make sure we have every fire engine available in the area to put out this fire,” Orange County Superintendent Lisa Bartlett said.

“Unfortunately, I think that’s what we’re going to see over the next several weeks and years. Vegetation is very dry and it doesn’t take much time for the fire to take off and run and burn very quickly,” Orange County Fire Chief Brian Venessy said during a news conference Wednesday night.

Students at Laguna Beach High School were evacuated from after-school activities on Wednesday.

California Wildfires
A firefighter works to extinguish flames from a wildfire on May 11, 2022, in Laguna Niguel, California.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AFP

CBS Los Angeles Reports indicate that a cat was rescued from a house earlier on Wednesday. Fire officials also reported hearing what they believed to be a munition exploding in one of the burning homes.

A video clip on social media showed a thick billow of smoke.