Thursday, June 13, 2024

Coastal Fire Destroys Luxury Homes in Orange County’s Laguna Niguel – Evacuations Urged | VIDEOs

Laguna Niguel fire (Marcio J Sanchez-AP)
Laguna Niguel fire (Marcio J Sanchez-AP)

*(CNN) — A rapidly moving brush fire destroyed at least 20 homes and forced emergency evacuations in Orange County, California, on Wednesday in a foreboding sign of the new normal for the parched region.

The fire in the city of Laguna Niguel started Wednesday afternoon and grew to about 200 acres as it ripped through mansions along hillside streets in one of California’s richest neighborhoods.

Flames swallowed entire homes and burned through to their interiors in one neighborhood, 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 neighboring Laguna Niguel 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 center below and the smoke grew maybe two to three times what it was before,” she said.

MORE NEWS ON EURWEB: Jody Watley Day in Atlanta at Georgia State Capitol Set for June 2, 2022

No injuries were reported, Orange County Fire Authority chief Brian Fennessy said Wednesday night.

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.

Fennessy said a brush fire like this used to be relatively minor. Not anymore.

“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.

Despite the efforts of firefighters, the fire still “ran” on first responders, officials said.

“We’re seeing spread in ways that we haven’t before,” Fennessy said. “Five years ago, 10 years ago, a fire like that might have grown to an acre, couple acres” before it was under control. But now, “fire is spreading in this very dry vegetation and taking off,” he said.

Laguna Niguel residents ordered to evacuate

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.

Laguna Niguel resident Allan Aguilera told CNN he and his family decided to evacuate when they saw the scope of the flames from a lookout point in the neighborhood.

“When we reached the top we saw the full scale of how big the fire was and witness how quickly it was spreading,” he said. “There were tons of people in the area doing the same, watching the fire before the winds changed and began pushing the flames closer and closer. At that point we decided to leave and go prepare for potential evacuation.”

“The situation was incredibly tense but we kept our cool, gathered our most valuable belongings … and made an early evacuation to avoid any potential bottle necking if the worst case scenario were to play out,” Aguilera added.

On Wednesday, firefighters responded to flames at multiple houses in the Aliso Woods Canyon area, photos from CNN affiliate 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.

Crews were conducting damage assessments overnight and monitoring for hotspots or flying embers that could spark more damaging flames, Fennessy said.

From ‘fire season’ to ‘fire year’

California and the Western US are experiencing devastating drought conditions that have led to water restrictions in parts of the state. Last summer, California endured its most severe drought in its 126-year record. And the upcoming months aren’t getting any better.

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are expecting “prolonged, persistent drought in the West where below-average precipitation is most likely,” the agency wrote in its spring outlook in March.

Late last month, Southern California officials asked businesses and residents in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties to reduce outdoor watering to one day a week.

Winter and spring are typically the wet seasons for California, but this year has been anything but — especially in the southern half of the state. Los Angeles and Palm Springs are off to their third- and second-driest start to a year, respectively. Records in this region go back more than 70 years.

Statewide, January to April were the driest first four months on record, the US Drought Monitor reported Thursday. Over the past week alone, extreme drought expanded from 40% of the state to 60%.

The region’s drought has left vegetation incredibly dry, providing fuel for fires like the one in Laguna Niguel. The West is in a multiyear megadrought scientists recently reported is the most extreme in 1,200 years, and has been made 72% worse by human-caused climate change.

Wildfires have historically peaked in the late summer and fall in California. But now, instead of a fire season, officials are increasingly pointing to a “fire year,” where wildfires occur in any month.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

We Publish News 24/7. Don’t Miss A Story. Click HERE to SUBSCRIBE to Our Newsletter Now!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


- Advertisement -