Wildfire near Laguna Beach destroys more than 20 homes

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Crews battled a fast-moving wildfire outside Los Angles overnight that authorities estimated had destroyed more than 20 high-priced homes and forced evacuations, CBS Los Angeles reports. The blaze, already dubbed the Coastal Fire, broke out in brush between the cities of Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach just before 3 p.m. local time and quickly spread to residential areas.

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Shortly after 6 a.m. Thursday, the fire was estimated to have gobbled up 199 acres, the Orange County Fire Authority said on Twitter. There was zero containment.

Assistant Fire Chief TJ McGovern told reporters Thursday one firefighter was hurt battling the blaze.

The cause of the fire wasn’t known, but Southern California Edison disclosed that it had told state officials of “circuit activity” in the area where the blaze broke out as it erupted.

Officials said the flames began as a 50-by-50 foot vegetation fire but grew in a hurry, aided by ocean winds, and advanced toward high-dollar hillside estates overlooking the Pacific. At least five multimillion-dollar houses were scorched. One was a mansion listed for $10 million.

Officials said the area’s steep terrain was making it difficult to run hose lines and get ground crews where they needed to be. Fixed-wing planes dropping fire retardant and water-dropping helicopters were being used.

“We have the entire region focused on this fire right now to make sure we have every fire engine available in the area to put this fire out,” Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said.

Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said during a news conference Wednesday night, “Unfortunately, I think this is what we’re going to be experiencing over the next several weeks and years. The vegetation is so dry it is not taking much for the fire to take off running and burn very quickly.”

Students at Laguna Beach High School were evacuated from their after-school activities.