More than a dozen homes destroyed in Coastal Fire near Laguna Beach

A wildfire in a California residential area destroyed more than a dozen homes Wednesday night, local authorities said. The Coastal Fire, which broke out in brush in Aliso Wood Canyon between Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach just before 3 p.m. local time, has so far burned about 200 acres.

No injuries have been reported at this time, according to fire officials. Authorities did not know what caused the fire to ignite as of Wednesday night.

The Coastal Fire spreads through a residential area near Laguna Beach, California on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

Tim Wheaton

The fire started as a 50-foot by 50-foot vegetation fire. It soon grew to a 3-acre fire before growing to 30 and then 200 acres in just a few hours. When fire crews arrived, strong winds were blowing the flames “in an easterly and northerly direction,” fire officials said Wednesday night. As of 7:30 p.m. local time, firefighters said they estimated around 20 residential structures had been destroyed, but said they would have a more accurate assessment Thursday morning.

Officials said steep terrain in the area made it difficult to lay hoses and ground crews in areas where vegetation was burning.

Fixed-wing aircraft were used to drop fire retardant on the hillside where the fire started, hoping to slow the spread of the flames, reports CBS Los Angeles. Helicopters and water-dropping tankers were also used to fight the fire, according to CBS Los Angeles.

“What we saw today is not something we’re used to seeing at this time of year, or even in these types of conditions,” Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said Wednesday night. “We’re still talking about a fire year. This is another great example of that. The winds we’re experiencing today are normal winds. Very strong winds on the coast, uphill. The big difference is the vegetation in our canyons here in Southern California , throughout the West, it’s so dry that it’s not taking much…the fuel moisture is so low that those fires are taking off and running on us.”

“Unfortunately, I think this is what we’re going to experience in the next few months, for the next few years,” Fennessy added.

There are several evacuation orders in place, as well as voluntary evacuations, reports CBS Los Angeles. Orange County Sheriff’s Capt. Virgil Asuncion said roads leading to the area where the fire was burning have been closed and authorities believe there are about 100 buildings in that area.

Laguna Beach High School students were evacuated from their extracurricular activities.

Laguna Niguel Mayor Elaine Gennawey said 25 adults, two children and five pets were waiting at an evacuation center Wednesday night.

CBS Los Angeles reports that a cat was rescued from one of the houses earlier in the day. Firefighters also reported at one point hearing what they believed to be munitions exploding in one of the houses that had caught fire.

Video shared on social media showed huge plumes of smoke.

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