The Laguna Niguel fire that started Wednesday evening in Orange County California and initially affected 20 homes, has spread to over 200 homes, with authorities calling for immediate evacuations.
The Laguna Niguel fire led to evacuations as the flames grew and ripped through mansions that sit along hillside streets in one of California’s most affluent neighbourhoods, CNN reveals.
According to the report, the Laguna Niguel fire flames swallowed entire homes and burned through to their interiors in one neighbourhood while firefighters hosed down nearby houses on the same street hoping to save them, footage from CNN affiliate KCBS/KCAL showed.
Jennifer McCoy, a Laguna Beach resident, told CNN she first noticed smoke coming from Laguna Niguel approximately 8 miles away around 4:15 p.m. Less than two hours later, the smoke clouds had ballooned even larger, McCoy said.
“I walked down to the shopping centre below and the smoke grew maybe two to three times what it was before,” she said.
Meanwhile, firefighters responded to flames at multiple houses in the Aliso Woods Canyon area, photos from CNN affliate KABC showed.
Firefighting crews resorted to using water from a pond at the El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel to help fight the flames as thick brown and gray smoke blanketed the area.
No civilian or firefighter injuries were reported, Brian Fennessy, fire chief of the Orange County Fire Authority, said during a news conference Wednesday evening.
Crews will be conducting damage assessments overnight and monitoring for hotspots or flying embers that could spark more damaging flames, Fennessy said.
The fire was fueled by gusty winds that reached up to 30 mph in the area, according to nearby observations from the National Weather Service. That is in addition to dry conditions from an ongoing severe drought in the entire region, according to the latest US Drought Monitor.
Those dry conditions combined with the coastal winds, which aren’t unusual in the region this time of year, are making the situation worse, Fennessy said.
“The fuel beds in this county, throughout Southern California, throughout the West, are so dry that a fire like this is going to be more commonplace,” he said.
Evacuation orders are in effect for Coronado Pointe Drive, Vista Court and Via Las Rosa in the Pacific Island area of Laguna Niguel, and a reception area for those who evacuated was set up at the Crown Valley Community Center, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.
California and the overall Western region are experiencing devastating drought conditions that have led to water restrictions in parts of the state.