A brush fire fueled by intense coastal winds roared into an upscale Laguna Niguel subdivision Wednesday evening as it ballooned to at least 150 acres, burning multiple homes and forcing many to flee their homes.
At 5:51 p.m., Orange County Fire Authority officials tweeted that the fire had reached an estimated 183 acres but downgraded the figure to 150 acres five minutes later.
Television footage showed a row of sprawling, red-tiled homes at the tip of the canyon on fire, with smoke coming from several other homes deeper in the neighborhood.
Cold winds coming from the Pacific Ocean pushed the Coastal fire up a rugged canyon, sending embers into homes and sparking spot fires in the Coronado Pointe area.
The destruction underscored the year-round danger of fires in Southern California, even in cool conditions. Temperatures were in the mid-60s, and wind gusts topped 20 mph.
Television footage showed several homes on fire in the area. Orange County fire officials could not immediately be reached for information on how many homes were burning.
KABC-TV Channel 7 reported that 13 homes had burned.
Video from a KABC helicopter showed flames and heavy smoke moving up hillsides toward homes in the subdivision.
Fire crews dropped fire retardant, marking a strip of ground just outside the subdivision red, the video showed.
Two tankers were flying overhead dropping the fire retardant, KABC reported. A helicopter was also dropping water near the fire’s origin.
Both the Laguna Beach and Orange County fire departments were on the scene.
Winds coming up the canyon were sparking spot fires and driving smoke and flames toward homes, according to the news station. The winds blowing from the ocean topped 20 mph.
Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park was closed because of the fire, Orange County parks officials said around 3:15 p.m.
As of 4:35 p.m., evacuation orders were in place for communities near Pacific Island Drive and Coronado Pointe, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. A voluntary evacuation warning was issued for the Balboa Nyes neighborhood, the city of Laguna Beach said.
A temporary shelter has been opened at Crown Valley Community Center, 29751 Crown Valley Parkway, according to Laguna Niguel city officials. Those with questions were directed to call (949) 362-4300.
A live map and information on all evacuation areas and centers can be found at ocsheriff.gov/coastalfire, officials said.
Smoke was visible across Orange County.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as additional information becomes available.