Crews are battling a high-speed wildfire outside Los Angeles that officials say has destroyed 20 high-value homes and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate. The fire, dubbed the Coastal Fire, started in the bush between the towns of Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach just before 3pm local time on Wednesday and quickly spread to residential areas,.
The fire has consumed 200 acres and is 15% contained, Orange County Fire Authority division chief Shane Sherwood said during a Thursday night news conference.
Two firefighters were hospitalized for injuries and released, Sherwood said. No other injuries or deaths were reported.
In addition to the destroyed homes, 11 were damaged in the fire, Sherwood said. An estimated 900 residents of Laguna Niguel are currently under evacuation orders, Virgil Asuncion, head of Laguna Niguel City Police Services, said Thursday night.
“We know that we lost some houses,” Assunção said. “This is devastating and has huge impacts on our entire community. We are here to support them and support the city.”
Sherwood said Thursday night that authorities were still investigating the cause of the fire, but Southern California Edison said it had informed state officials about “circuit activity” in the area where the fire broke out.
Officials said the blaze started as a 50-by-50-foot bushfire on Wednesday afternoon, but grew rapidly, aided by ocean winds, and advanced toward properties on hillsides overlooking the Pacific. At least five multimillion-dollar homes were burned. One was a mansion valued at $10 million.
Officials said the area’s steep terrain was making it difficult for hoses to pass and ground crews to where they needed to be. Fixed wing aircraft dropping fire retardants and water drop helicopters were being used.
“We have the entire region focused on this fire right now to make sure we have every fire engine available in the area to put out this fire,” said Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.
Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy told a news conference Wednesday night: “Unfortunately, I think this is what we’re going to experience in the coming weeks and years. The vegetation is so dry it’s not taking long. too much for fire to take off running and burn very quickly.”
Students at Laguna Beach High School were evacuated from their extracurricular activities on Wednesday.
reports that a cat was rescued from one of the houses on Wednesday. Firefighters also reported hearing what they believed to be ammunition exploding in one of the houses that was on fire.
The video shared on social media showed huge clouds of smoke.