Thousands evacuate after wildfire threatens Calif. homes

More than 400 firefighters are battling the Aliso fire, which has burned more than 250 acres and forced the evacuation of more than 1,500 residents

By Hannah Fry
Daily Pilot

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — A wind-driven brush fire Saturday has burned more than 250 acres and forced the evacuation of 1,500 residents from The Top of The World and Old Top of The World neighborhoods in Laguna Beach, firefighters said. 

Mandatory evacuations of about 2,000 homes were starting Saturday evening in neighboring Aliso Viejo, the Orange County Fire Authority said.

The Aliso fire, which was reported shortly at about 1:15 p.m., is aggressively burning heavy brush below Top of the World and behind Soka University in Aliso Viejo. There had been no containment as of 6:30 p.m., according to fire officials.

More than 400 firefighters from the Orange County Fire Authority, Laguna Beach, Brea, Anaheim, Camp Pendleton, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and Orange are on scene.

Several helicopters are dropping water on the flames and fixed-wing aircraft are battling the blaze with fire retardant. Multiple fire engines are in place to defend structures.

A firefighter suffered a leg injury, but no other injuries or structure damage have been reported.

Residents, many of whom remember the devastating wildfire that burned thousands of acres in Laguna Beach in 1993, quickly packed up and left their homes Saturday afternoon.

The evacuated neighborhoods in Laguna Beach are along Alta Laguna Boulevard and Park Avenue toward Bern Drive and Temple Hills Drive toward Dorn Court. Roads will be closed and people will be evacuated from Old Top of the World to Alta Laguna Park into Saturday evening and possibly Sunday morning, Laguna Beach police said.

A reception center for evacuees was established at the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Center at 380 Third St.

Costa Mesa's High School's prom, which was scheduled to be held at Soka University Saturday night, has been postponed because of the fire, said Newport-Mesa Unified School District Spokeswoman Annette Franco.

It is not clear when it will be rescheduled.

The flames chewed through brush left bone dry by years of drought conditions across Southern California. The region saw a devastating fire season last year, with homes lost from San Diego and Bel Air to Sylmar to Montecito. The Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties made history as the largest on record in California.

Experts have warned the continued dry conditions make more big fires likely, and the Laguna blaze is shaping up to be one of the biggest in months.


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