Evacuation orders were lifted Thursday afternoon hours after a brush fire erupted in the Laguna Beach area.
The blaze, dubbed the Emerald Fire, was reported just after 4 a.m. near the Emerald Bay community and has scorched about 145 acres, officials said. The acreage was downgraded from 150.
The blaze was also 20% contained by 6 p.m.
The Laguna Beach Police Department issued a mandatory evacuation order for Irvine Cove and both north and south Emerald Bay, according to a City of Laguna Beach news release. The orders were lifted about 3 p.m., but a voluntary evacuation warning for all of North Laguna, which includes all residents north of Broadway, remains in place.
Orange County Parks and California State Parks remained closed in the fire-affected areas Thursday afternoon.
At one point, homes were being threatened by the brush fire, according to the news release.
Four air tankers have responded to the fire, along with five water-dropping helicopters, in excess of 75 engines, 10 strike teams and four hand crews, Fennessy said.
“At this time I’m feeling pretty confident that we got a pretty good handle on this fire right now,” Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said during an early news conference.
Fennessy added that, right now, this is the only fire burning in California and that they are currently “resource rich.”
Pacific Coast Highway was closed in both directions due to the fire but has since reopened, according to the OCFA.
Residents in evacuation areas were asked to be patient about returning to their homes. Despite progress being made, the fire is still dangerous due to wind conditions and other factors.
“Residents will not be allowed in until it’s safe,” Fennessy said.
Fennessy thanked the community of Emerald Bay for creating defensible space around their homes.
“While the fire did spread rapidly, when it got into those areas where there was good defensible space that fire laid down as it should,” Fennessy said.
No homes have been damaged in the area, which last burned in the Laguna fires in 1993, according to Fennessy. Several structures were lost in that blaze.
An evacuation center was opened at Los Olivos Community Center, located at 101 Alfonso in Irvine.
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All schools in the Laguna Beach Unified School District will be closed Thursday, according to a tweet from the School District.
High winds were blowing through the area when the fire started around 4 a.m.
As of about 6:30 a.m. wind speeds in Laguna were reported at 13 mph, gusting to 27 mph. In the Moro Canyon area, winds were blowing at 25 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Fennessy said. There are power lines in the area and an arson unit is on scene.
“It’s very early, It’s premature … I don’t want to speculate on a cause,” Fennessy said.