THE shocking full extent of the 200-acre blaze which has destroyed 20 homes and damaged 11 others in California is being revealed in new photos.
Multi-million dollar mansions have been gutted by the flames after the wildfire started in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday.
Around 900 residents have been evacuated so far, officials said.
The Orange County Fire Authority said in a tweet that 550 firefighters are on scene. Two have sustained injuries but have been released from the hospital.
The blaze, dubbed the Coastal Fire, broke out in Laguna Niguel at 2.44pm local time on Wednesday.
It quickly grew from 3 to roughly 200 acres by 6pm on Wednesday. It is 15% contained as of Thursday evening, officials said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation but KCRA reports Southern California Edison said electrical “circuit activity” occurred around the same time the fire broke out on Wednesday.
SoCal Edison made the report about the unspecified electrical activity on Wednesday night.
“Our information reflects circuit activity occurring close in time to the reported time of the fire. Our investigation is ongoing,” SoCal Edison said.
A number of mandatory evacuations remain in effect, with fire officials asking residents to be patient about returning home as they work to avoid having to reissue evacuation orders, according to KCRA.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement: “The area north of the intersection of Flying Cloud Drive and Pacific Island Drive to the intersection of Highlands Avenue and Pacific Island Drive is under Mandatory Evacuation Order.
“The area south of Flying Cloud Drive and Pacific Island Drive to the intersection of Pacific Island Drive and Crown Valley Parkway is under a Voluntary Evacuation Warning.”
Thick, black smoke was seen rising from multi-million dollar homes overlooking the ocean in Coronado Pointe.
Helicopter video showed at least a dozen houses on fire. Reporters on the ground called the fire area “a disaster zone.”
The Orange County Fire Authority said 60 different types of resources were battling the flames.
A water-dropping helicopter was on scene and crews requested fixed-wing aircraft to assist.
Firefighters were working to water down as many houses as possible as strong winds blew embers into attics, adding to the growing flames.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Chief Brian Hennessy with Orange County Fire Authority said that winds died down and no injuries have been reported.
“The winds we experienced today are not unusual…these are coastal winds that we experience every day,” he said.
He added that the biggest challenge was the very-dry vegetation found throughout the state.
“Fire like this is going to be more commonplace,” he warned.
Communities were under mandatory evacuations because of the fast-moving fire. Residents were urged to make preparations for their families and pets.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office posted a warning on social media, saying: “During times of disaster, some see it as an opportunity to commit crimes of theft and burglary.
“We want the community to know that the OC Sheriff has deployed sufficient man power to protect lives and property.”
It came after a state of emergency was declared in the city of Laguna Niguel by Mayor Elaine Gennaway.
“Our priority are the residents of our city and their safety and wellbeing,” Gennaway said.
A temporary shelter was opened at the Crown Valley Community Center, where dozens of adults, children, and pets were taking refuge.
The American Red Cross and animal services were there to help residents with their needs.
Residents were also asked to reduce water usage while firefighters continue their efforts to get the fire out.
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