A brushfire burning above Emerald Bay and moving north towards Newport Beach triggered officials to evacuate Laguna Beach residents Thursday morning, but by 3 p.m. officials had lifted evacuation notices as they continued to fight the fire.
The blaze, dubbed the Emerald Fire, has now burned roughly 150 acres as of 3 p.m. Thursday and is 20% contained, according to an evening press conference hosted by the Orange County Fire Authority.
Earlier that morning, OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy said the fire was slowing down.
“Five percent is a really conservative estimate of containment. The fire is not spreading rapidly at this time, there’s very little growth. But we’ve got 2-3 more days of weather like this,” Fennessy said at a 9:30 a.m. press conference. “We’re not out of the woods.”
No structures have been damaged or lost and there have been no reports of any injuries, Fennessy said at the 9:30 press conference.
“I’m satisfied with the number of resources we have at scene and en route and I’m feeling confident we’ve got a pretty good handle on this fire. As long as the weather cooperates and resources continue to come in.”Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy
Fennessy said that the agency has 5 helicopters and at least 75 fire engines on the fire, with air tankers ordered and two bulldozers on the ground. He also said that this is the first significant fire since the October 1993 Laguna Beach Fire that burned through 441 homes and 14,000 acres.
When asked about the differences between the 1993 fire and today, Fennessy said that a lack of other fires throughout the state currently and better communication between agencies.
“We didn’t have the coordination we do now,” Fennessy said.
It is still unclear how the fire started, but first reports rolled in at 4:09 a.m. Thursday according to the Orange County Fire Authority on Twitter.
“We no longer have a fire season, we have a fire year. Even though the hillsides are green, it doesn’t take anything but low humidity and wind for fires to occur.”Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy
The OCFA also announced they were setting up a public information hotline that can be reached at 714-628-7085.
While Coast Highway was initially closed, it was reopened on Thursday before noon.
All schools in Laguna Beach are closed for the day, with the city encouraging parents to contact the school district for more information according to the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Instagram page.
As of 9:30, the Susi Q Center in Laguna Beach and Los Olivos Community Center are open as evacuation centers for affected residents.
The fire comes during a strong heatwave set to drive temperatures along the coast up to the high 80s today, with wind gusts as high as 49 mph according to the National Weather Service.
As of 3 p.m., around 375 firefighters were responding to the fire, with 10 strike teams, four hand crews, and five helicopters assisting the effort.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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