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Brush fire engulfs 20 homes in flames in Orange County

Multimillion dollar mansions went up in flames in Orange County, California, on Wednesday as a fast-moving brush fire engulfed properties overlooking the Pacific.

The blaze – dubbed the Coastal Fire – ignited near a water treatment facility between Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach at 2.44pm local time, according to ABC7, and had grown to almost 200 acres by 8pm. 

At least 20 homes were engulfed in flames and about 100 homes were potentially in the path of the Coastal fire, Orange County Sheriff’s Capt. Virgil Asuncion said.

The flames were fanned by gusty ocean winds and has whipped across hiking trails in the hills, already engulfing 20 homes in the exclusive enclave, where properties regularly sell for millions of dollars. But the winds were dying down on Wednesday night.

The fire is not currently threatening Laguna Beach itself, but has forced hundreds of people to evacuate from neighboring Laguna Niguel. No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

‘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 this fire out,’ said Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett. 

The fire was 0 per cent contained and a local emergency order remained in place in Laguna Niguel as of Wednesday night, as firefighters fought to put out the fires in an effort to stop the blaze from spreading further. 

Larges houses were left in ruins as the fire tore through the bone-dry brush land beneath the hilltop homes

Firefighters work to put out a mansion burning during the wildfire on Wednesday night in Laguna Niguel

Firefighters work to put out a mansion burning during the wildfire on Wednesday night in Laguna Niguel

A firefighter is pictured dousing the flames on Wednesday night in Laguna Niguel, Orange County, California

A firefighter is pictured dousing the flames on Wednesday night in Laguna Niguel, Orange County, California

Firefighters douse the hillside with retardant sprays to try and put the fire out on Wednesday

Firefighters douse the hillside with retardant sprays to try and put the fire out on Wednesday

An aerial view shows the fire burning and spreading through the hillside on Wednesday afternoon

An aerial view shows the fire burning and spreading through the hillside on Wednesday afternoon

A firefighter on Wednesday night works to put out the blaze in Laguna Niguel, above Laguna Beach

A firefighter on Wednesday night works to put out the blaze in Laguna Niguel, above Laguna Beach

Laguna Niguel is home to 65,000 people, with the average home valued at $863,000 according to the most recent census

Laguna Niguel is home to 65,000 people, with the average home valued at $863,000 according to the most recent census

A house is reduced to rubble by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, California, on Wednesday

A house is reduced to rubble by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, California, on Wednesday

A house and a car are destroyed by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel in California on Wednesday. Around 200 acres have been destroyed by the fire

A house and a car are destroyed by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel in California on Wednesday. Around 200 acres have been destroyed by the fire

Firefighters work to put out a house fire caused by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, California, on Wednesday

Firefighters work to put out a house fire caused by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, California, on Wednesday

Multimillion dollar mansions went up in flames as the Coastal Fire ripped through on Wednesday afternoon

Multimillion dollar mansions went up in flames as the Coastal Fire ripped through on Wednesday afternoon

The affluent area is known for its hiking trails and spectacular views down to the Pacific Ocean

The affluent area is known for its hiking trails and spectacular views down to the Pacific Ocean

A building is entirely destroyed in the blaze, that ripped through the region, sparked just before 3pm

A building is entirely destroyed in the blaze, that ripped through the region, sparked just before 3pm

A home is seen engulfed in flames just a few hours after the fire ignited in Orange County, California

A home is seen engulfed in flames just a few hours after the fire ignited in Orange County, California

The fire broke out around 2:44pm and swept through an area known for its hiking trails and ocean views

The fire broke out around 2:44pm and swept through an area known for its hiking trails and ocean views

The fire, which occurred in Laguna Niguel, was at 195 acres on Wednesday night but the wind drove up embers into palm trees, attics and dense, dry brush on slopes and steep canyons that hadn’t burned for decades, said Britain Fennessy, chief of the Orange County Fire Authority. 

Fennessy said climate change has made even small fires that once would have been easily contained into extreme threats to life and property throughout the West. 

Around 4pm, people living in the area of Pacific Island Drive and Coronado Pointe were also ordered to evacuate by Orange County Sheriff’s officials. Homes along Coronado Pointe sell for between $1million and $10million, according to Zillow.

A $6.6 million four-bedroom, seven bathroom mansion at 35 Coronado Pointe had lost its roof entirely to flames. Firefighters were battling to save the walls, and neighboring properties. 

Explosions were heard coming from one home – believed to be the sound of ammunition detonating. 

Residents near Moulton Meadows and Balbo Nyes were advised to be prepared to flee at a moment’s notice, but the evacuation warning was lifted before 10pm. 

Laguna Beach high school has been evacuated. There are no reports of any injuries as of 10pm local time.

Smoke is seen rising from the Coastal Fire which ignited near a water treatment facility between Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach at 2.44pm local time

California firefighters battle a home on fire in Laguna Niguel as the wildfire spread in Laguna Niguel

California firefighters battle a home on fire in Laguna Niguel as the wildfire spread in Laguna Niguel

Hoses are dragged to the scene in an attempt to extinguish the flames engulfing multimillion dollar homes

Hoses are dragged to the scene in an attempt to extinguish the flames engulfing multimillion dollar homes

Strong winds fanned the flames, which ripped up from the brush in the valley below

Strong winds fanned the flames, which ripped up from the brush in the valley below

A firefighter walks past a mansion on fire caused by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday night

A firefighter walks past a mansion on fire caused by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday night 

A firefighter puts his hands on his hips and dips his head at the sheer scale of the wildfire which has destroyed dozens of houses in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday

A firefighter puts his hands on his hips and dips his head at the sheer scale of the wildfire which has destroyed dozens of houses in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday 

Firefighters were trying on Wednesday night to contain the Coastal Fire and save as many homes as they could

Firefighters were trying on Wednesday night to contain the Coastal Fire and save as many homes as they could

Firefighters work to put out a structure burning during a wildfire in California on Wednesday

Firefighters work to put out a structure burning during a wildfire in California on Wednesday

The front of a house set on fire by the Coastal Fire collapses in Laguna Niguel, California, on Wednesday

The front of a house set on fire by the Coastal Fire collapses in Laguna Niguel, California, on Wednesday

The mansions lining the canyon sell for upwards of $1 million, with several reaching in excess of $6 million

The mansions lining the canyon sell for upwards of $1 million, with several reaching in excess of $6 million

Flames are seen engulfing a mansion as a result of the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday

Flames are seen engulfing a mansion as a result of the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday

Firefighter Nick Cerciello of Costa Mesa Fire Department battles back the flames

Firefighter Nick Cerciello of Costa Mesa Fire Department battles back the flames

Houses are set on fire by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, California, on Wednesday

Houses are set on fire by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, California, on Wednesday

Residents evacuated from their homes were directed to a shelter at Crown Valley Parkway.

Cheryl Flohr and her husband Mark said they had been impressed by the efforts to evacuate their community, telling The Orange County Register that their 48,500-square-foot home is in Palmea, the neighborhood next to badly damaged Coronado Pointe.

‘Fred Minegar, the mayor in 2020, immediately engaged and drove up and down the streets honking letting residents know,’ Cheryl Flohr said. 

‘They were so ready for us. I’m proud of my community and Laguna Niguel.’

Mark Flohr told the paper he knew there was a fire when he heard aircraft overhead and then saw smoke. 

Then he drove over to a vacant area overlooking the steep canyons above The Ranch resort in Laguna Beach and saw the flames. Not long after, the couple got a knock on the door asking them to evacuate.

Using a list they created more than a decade ago, they carried out what was important to them – photo albums, hard drives, devices and charging cords plus irreplaceable personal items.

A mansion and a car are seen destroyed by the raging wildfire in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday

A mansion and a car are seen destroyed by the raging wildfire in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday 

5 Firefighters look on as they work at putting down fires set alight by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday

5 Firefighters look on as they work at putting down fires set alight by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday

A firefighter walks down the street whilst talking on his radio as houses burn and collapse as a result of the wildfire

A firefighter walks down the street whilst talking on his radio as houses burn and collapse as a result of the wildfire

A house can be seen on fire in the background after a wind-driven wildfire broke out on Wednesday near Laguna Niguel

A house can be seen on fire in the background after a wind-driven wildfire broke out on Wednesday near Laguna Niguel

A firefighter works at watering down a house set on fire by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday

A firefighter works at watering down a house set on fire by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday

A firefighter can be seen in front of a burning house after a wind-driven wildfire broke out in Laguna Niguel

A firefighter can be seen in front of a burning house after a wind-driven wildfire broke out in Laguna Niguel 

The charred ruins of a house in Laguna Niguel are seen on Wednesday evening

The charred ruins of a house in Laguna Niguel are seen on Wednesday evening

A helicopter is seen spraying the area as the sun sets over the hills beyond Laguna Niguel

A helicopter is seen spraying the area as the sun sets over the hills beyond Laguna Niguel

Smoke can be seen rising on Wednesday afternoon as helicopters are used to try and bring the fire under control

Smoke can be seen rising on Wednesday afternoon as helicopters are used to try and bring the fire under control

‘I brought a glass doll head my mother played with 100 years ago,’ said Cheryl Flohr.  

Mark Flohr brought some old engineering tools and century-old books. The couple planned to stay with friends and family on Wednesday night.

‘We came here first because we wanted to be where the information was,’ Cheryl Flohr said.

Brian Fennessy, fire chief of the Orange County Fire Authority, told ABC 7 Los Angeles television that his team was trying to save as many homes as they could.

‘It’s all about defending the homes that have not already burned,’ Fennessy said from the scene. ‘The firefighters behind me are really putting on an aggressive fight.’

Fennessy said at a press conference on Wednesday night that he expected winds to die down after sunset, which would help slow the spread, and that there were no other major fires in Southern California, enabling firefighters from the area to concentrate their resources on Laguna Niguel.

The hilltop city of about 65,000 people is just inland from the coastal city of Laguna Beach about 50 miles south of Los Angeles. Laguna Beach has been home over the years to famous faces including Diane Keaton, Bette Midler screenwriter and producer Ryan Murphy, and Hollywood’s Golden Age star, Bette Davis.

Dry brush covers the surrounding hills and canyons, as California experiences historic drought. 

‘Unfortunately I think this is what we’re going to be experiencing over the next several weeks and years,’ said Fennessy. 

‘The vegetation is so dry it is not taking much for the fire to take off running and burn very quickly.’ 

A $6.6 million home, 35 Coronado Pointe, is seen on fire as the blaze sweeps inland from the coast

A $6.6 million home, 35 Coronado Pointe, is seen on fire as the blaze sweeps inland from the coast

The $6.6 million mansion at 35 Coronado Pointe was badly damaged by the fire

The $6.6 million mansion at 35 Coronado Pointe was badly damaged by the fire

The homes along Coronado Pointe, with their sweeping views down the valley to the ocean, sell for easily over $2 million, with several fetching $10 million according to Zillow. The $6.6 million home at 35 Coronado Pointe is seen to the left

The homes along Coronado Pointe, with their sweeping views down the valley to the ocean, sell for easily over $2 million, with several fetching $10 million according to Zillow. The $6.6 million home at 35 Coronado Pointe is seen to the left

Firefighters can be seen using water cannon to try and save a blazing mansion in Laguna Niguel

Firefighters can be seen using water cannon to try and save a blazing mansion in Laguna Niguel

A large home is seen burning after the Coastal Fire broke out on Tuesday afternoon. Residents have been told to evacuate

A large home is seen burning after the Coastal Fire broke out on Tuesday afternoon. Residents have been told to evacuate

A fire truck is seen at the scene of the fire. Water-dropping helicopters are being used to try and fight the fire

A fire truck is seen at the scene of the fire. Water-dropping helicopters are being used to try and fight the fire

Mike Garcia, the Laguna Beach fire chief, said: ‘It was a wind-driven fire. And since it started around 3pm today it’s gone eastward.

‘It’s becoming a pretty big fire, burning several homes in the city of Laguna Niguel. 

‘I want to tell our community that the city of Laguna Beach is safe. We don’t expect any changes. 

‘But we want all of our residents to remain vigilant, be prepared, be aware.’

He said they would notify residents of any changes, but people should be prepared to ‘react quickly’. 

Ground and air crews from the Orange County Fire Authority and Laguna Beach Fire Department were working to extinguish flames moving uphill through light and moderately dense vegetation. 

Winds gusting up to 20 mph were fanning the flames, and relative humidity in the area was measured at 52 percent, said Mark Moede, from the National Weather Service.

‘Gusts were up to 25 mph when the fire started,’ Moede said at about 5pm.

‘It will stay breezy for the next hour or so, but should drop-off as the sun drops below the horizon.’

The last major fire in the area was the Emerald fire on February 24. 

The earlier fire grew to about 150 acres before it was extinguished.

The first three months of 2022 have been the driest on record.  

Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, responded on Tuesday by pledging to spend $100 million on a statewide advertising campaign to encourage water conservation. 

The campaign will include traditional radio and television spots while also paying people with large followings on social media to urge others to save water. 

He also promised to spend an $211 million to conserve more water in state government buildings by replacing plumbing fixtures and irrigation controls.

Smoke can be seen rising up the canyon towards Coronado Pointe, along the rim of the hillside

Smoke can be seen rising up the canyon towards Coronado Pointe, along the rim of the hillside

In Los Angeles – the second most populous city in the U.S. – Mayor Eric Garcetti said residents and businesses would have to reduce outdoor landscape watering from three days per week to two. 

Irrigation makes up 35 percent of the city’s water use.

Urban water use accounts for a relatively small percentage of California’s overall water use when compared to agriculture. But the state’s farmers have been suffering, too, as state and federal officials have reduced water allocations to zero in some places.

Demand for non-agriculture water is typically low in March, which comes near the end of the state’s rainy season. It can sometimes rain so much in March that it makes up for the rest of the year, a phenomenon officials have dubbed the ‘March miracle.’

But California got just 1 inch of precipitation in March while the temperatures were 3 degrees warmer than usual, further increasing water demand.

A series of April storms have improved things slightly since March. 

Still, most of the state’s reservoirs are well below their historic averages. 

Homes were ablaze along the exclusive street, which looks out to the ocean

Homes were ablaze along the exclusive street, which looks out to the ocean

Evacuations have been ordered in the area as authorities work to get the flames under control

Evacuations have been ordered in the area as authorities work to get the flames under control

Huge plumes of smoke rise into the air in Orange County, California - around Laguna Niguel

Huge plumes of smoke rise into the air in Orange County, California – around Laguna Niguel

The reservoirs depend on melted snow from the Sierra Nevada to replenish them for the dry summer months. But the statewide snowpack was at just 27 percent of its historic average as of April 1.

‘This is what we have. This is what we’re going to get. We can’t expect anything significant past this date,’ said Jeanine Jones, manager for interstate resources with the California Department of Water Resources.

State officials said 20 percent of the wells they monitor are reporting all-time low water levels, while nearly half of them have less than 10 percent of their historic averages. 

In some cases, the state is helping to haul water to small communities that don’t have access to it. State officials said they were assisting 687 households through a small community drought relief program.

Some larger communities were also in danger. 

Lindsay, a city of about 13,000 people in California’s Central Valley, was projected to run out of water on July 1. 

Federal officials approved an additional allocation for the city, which they now say will have enough water to last through February – provided they continue to conserve.



Brush fire engulfs 20 homes in flames in Orange County Source link Brush fire engulfs 20 homes in flames in Orange County

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