A brush fire dubbed the Coastal Fire roared to life in Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park this afternoon and spread to Laguna Niguel, burning homes on the city’s edge. 

According to the city of Laguna Beach, the fire has burned at least 200 acres as of 7:56 p.m., racing out from three acres at 3:43 p.m., and there are at least 20 structures that are destroyed or partially collapsed according to Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy.

Fennessy said they expected to get better control of the fire overnight, and said fires like this will continue to unfold throughout Southern California.

“You don’t have to lose life or property in large fires, you can lose it quickly in much smaller fires,” Fennessy said at a Wednesday evening press conference. “You can expect more of this.”

So far, no injuries have been reported from the fire.

So far, sheriffs have evacuated or are in the process of evacuating the streets of Coronado Point, Vista Monte Mar, Le Port, San Simeon, Sierra Vista, Alta Terra, Nocella, Seriana, Avante, Tamarron, Teracina, Islands Ave., Capri Court, Sonrisa lane, Chapala Court, Relo Court, and Anamonte Court, with at least 100 homes evacuated according to sheriffs officials.

To see the sheriffs’ live evacuation map, click here.

An official evacuation center has been set up at the Laguna Niguel Community Center on 29751 Crown Valley Parkway, and a hotline number for residents looking for information has been set up at 714-628-7085. That center does accept pets.

Facebook community groups in Laguna Niguel were also buzzing with activity, as residents who didn’t have to evacuate offered up places for pets to stay and offering prayers for neighbors as they posted footage of the smoke clouds just down the street from their homes.

The first report of a fire came from the Orange County Parks Department, who tweeted at 3:17 p.m. that Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park was closed due to the coastal fire.

About 30 minutes later, the Orange County Fire Authority reported they were fighting a three-acre fire with the assistance of the Laguna Beach Fire Department. 

A news release sent out just after 4:30 p.m. by the city of Laguna Beach said they were issuing voluntary evacuation warnings for the Balboa Nyes (Portafina) neighborhood, erasing an earlier message that the fire was moving away from the city. 

An update to that release at 6:20 p.m. said while the city was in no “immediate fire threat,” they were leaving the evacuation order open and asking residents to remain vigilant

To see the city’s real time evacuation map, click here

But Laguna Niguel is the only place thats been forced to evacuate so far, with a tweet from the sheriffs’ department telling residents to evacuate immediately at 4:35 as the fire raced toward homes.

“Residents are asked to avoid the area and take alternate routes. Coast Highway remains open at this time,” the city stated.

While none of the other surrounding cities have ordered evacuations yet, the smoke plume is visible for miles around, with commenters on the fire authority’s twitter page reporting views from San Juan Capistrano, Mission Viejo, and other parts of south Orange County. 

This isn’t the first time in recent history that south Orange County has dealt with wildfires. 

Last February, the Emerald Fire burned 154 acres along the northern edge of Laguna Beach, and in 1993 the Laguna Fire consumed 16,000 acres and destroyed over 4,000 homes. 

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporter and Report for America Corps member, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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