A large brush fire erupted in Laguna Beach early Thursday amid powerful Santa Ana winds and hot temperatures, forcing hundreds of evacuations, CBS Los Angeles reports.
The Emerald Fire was first reported at 4:09 a.m., according to the Orange County Fire Authority. Video showed a wall of flames on the ridgeline above Emerald Bay, which is a gated community with dozens of multimillion-dollar homes.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for the Emerald Bay, Irvine Cove and the North Coast communities, according to police. An evacuation warning was in place for North Laguna, which included all residents north of Broadway.
“We just heard the police coming by on the loudspeaker, ‘mandatory evacuation,’ maybe two or three minutes ago … so after I speak with you, I’ll probably get in my car and head south,” evacuee Dana Taschner said.
No homes have been damaged and no injuries have been reported. Laguna Beach Unified School District reported that all its schools would be closed on Thursday.
The fire was being buoyed by strong Santa Ana winds and unseasonably warm temperatures in the mid-70s.
“Not only do we have the dry conditions, we have the dry vegetation, we haven’t had a lot of rain at all the last couple of weeks .. .And then you pair that with these gusty winds, and then that fire just kind of grew, so fast. And then we’re dealing with more of these winds right now, and then it’s warm right now,” said meteorologist Amber Lee.
Evacuation centers opened at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center, and the Los Olivos Community Center in Irvine.