Officials still looking for cause of blaze
Fire officials did not comment nor confirm any details about the circuit activity during a news conference Thursday morning.
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.
Even so, there was not a particularly high risk of fire on Wednesday, and officials and scientists were taken aback by the speed and intensity of the blaze. Orange County Fire Chief Brian Fennessy said a brush fire like this used to be relatively minor. Not anymore.
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.
Wildfires have historically peaked in the late summer and fall in California. But this is the fourth fire Orange County has seen so far this year, McGovern said.
“We don’t have a fire season. It’s year-round now, and these last four fires that we’ve had just proved it to all of us,” he said.
Laguna Niguel residents ordered to evacuate
Evacuation orders were 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.
The area is also forecast to get hotter the next few days. Temperatures will be 10 to 15 degrees above average across California and the Southwest from Friday through the weekend and into early next week.
“Today will mark the start of a warming trend that will last into Saturday. Max temps will be above normal today through Saturday, with Saturday being the warmest day of the next seven,” the National Weather Service in Los Angeles said.