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Laguna Beach Brush Fire: Blaze Spreads To Over 120 Acres

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An Orange County fire department helicopter flies past houses that were damaged during an early morning landslide in Laguna Beach, California, June 1, 2005. Photo: Reuters

By Vaishnavi Vaidyanathan, International Business Times

Brush fire in south Orange County, California, prompted the evacuation of around 1,500 residents in Laguna Beach's neighborhood Saturday. The unpredictable wind-driven brush fire spread to at least 120 acres and threatened all the nearby homes.

Laguna Beach fire and police officials at one point said the fire spread to 250 acres of land but later downgraded it, reported ABC7. They added aerial view of the area could give them a more accurate account of the acreage.

The fire was reported at 1:07 p.m. (EDT) in Wood Canyon behind Soka University. Mandatory evacuation for more than 2,100 homes was ordered at 5:30 p.m. EDT but was later lifted after the erratic winds appeared to die down.

“Mandatory evacuation orders for the fire will be lifted beginning at 9 p.m. At this time, authorities believe the fire is no longer a threat to homes. Please drive safely & expect some delays as this will be a slow process,” Aliso Viego city's official account tweeted.

Officials closed both ends of Wood Canyon Road during evacuation. Residents who left their homes were not allowed to return due to smoke and ash. More than 400 firefighters and fire engines were in place.

“Firefighters continue to make good progress with little to no wind. Crews will remain throughout the night and day tomorrow working on remaining hotspots and securing a line around the fire. Fire still at 0 percent contained,” Orange County Fire Authority tweeted.

The wind shifted multiple times throughout the firefight, which caused several spot fires and difficulty for fire crews, Capt. Tony Bommarito said.

“The biggest battle has been the thick brush that hasn’t burned in over 100 years, and the erratic winds,” he added.

Laguna Beach resident Toni Engstrom said, “We have the dog, we have the wedding rings, we have the heirlooms and the important documents. We trust in the Laguna Beach Fire Department.”

A prom scheduled for Saturday at Soka University by Costa Mesa High School was postponed by a week.

“There have been six years of drought and there is an enormous amount of dead vegetation, ninety percent of the city is in high fire danger. We’re all in this together,” said Matt Lawson, who chairs the Laguna Beach Emergency Preparedness Committee. “This is directly what we’ve heard ... that we are in an extreme dangerous peak fire period.”

“You don’t have to live next to the burn area to be at very high fire risk,” he added.

“Being prepared all the time is important in this situation,” Charles Burton, a resident who through Laguna Beach’s devastating firestorm in 1993 said, reported Ventura County newspaper VCstar.

No injuries or structural damage were reported; however, a firefighter suffered a minor leg injury.

A similar fire incident was reported in 2017 with homes lost from San Diego and Bel-Air to Sylmar and Montecito.

Experts said the Laguna fire was the biggest in last few months and also warned of more such blazes if the dry conditions in California continued.

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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: Laguna Beach Brush Fire: Blaze Spreads To Over 120 Acres
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