Fueled by hot, dry weather and strong winds, the Coastal fire in Laguna Niguel, California, has destroyed 20 homes and damaged 11 more in a coastal canyon near the Pacific Ocean.
The fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon near a water treatment plant, the Orange County Fire Authority said, and spread quickly due to intense winds and steep terrain. Orange County Fire Authority Division Chief Shane Sherwood told reporters on Thursday evening that the blaze has scorched 200 acres and is 15 percent contained.
Resident Sandy Vogel told the Los Angeles Times she was able to flee the fire with just a few possessions, and as she ran to her car, embers fell and burned her sweater. "We didn't think our house was going to burn, but the winds were so strong yesterday that once the fire came up the hill there was no stopping it," she said. "We didn't know the house had burned until we saw it on the news."
There are 550 firefighters assigned to the incident, with two sustaining injuries, and at least 900 homeowners have been evacuated from the area. Firefighters are working to stamp out the blaze's hotspots, and Sherwood said the weather is expected to get hotter and drier, which will "challenge" crews.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Southern California Edison said it sent the California Public Utilities Commission a letter stating that there was "circuit activity occurring close in time to the reported time of the fire." It isn't clear if a power line fell down, ABC 7 Los Angeles reports, but a resident of Laguna Beach told the station that the power went out shortly before she heard sirens seemingly responding to the blaze.