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Utility says 'circuit activity' near time Coastal Fire started near Laguna Niguel update | Maps, evacuations and road closures

Updates on the Coastal Fire that is burning homes near Laguna Niguel in Orange County, California.

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. — Click here for Friday's story on the Coastal Fire.

The Coastal Fire near Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel has burned homes in Orange County. 

A wildfire that erupted Wednesday afternoon in coastal Southern California raced through coastal bluffs of multimillion-dollar mansions, burning at least 20 homes, fire officials said.

Southern California Edison has advised state utility regulators that unspecified electrical “circuit activity” occurred around the time a destructive wildfire erupted in the coastal community of Laguna Niguel.

“Our information reflects circuit activity occurring close in time to the reported time of the fire. Our investigation is ongoing,” SoCal Edison said in a report to the California Public Utilities Commission.

Various utilities' electrical equipment has repeatedly been linked to the ignition of disastrous California wildfires, especially during windy weather.

Last year, the state Public Utilities Commission approved a settlement placing more than half a billion dollars in fines and penalties on Southern California Edison for its role in five wildfires in 2017 and 2018. 

The fire, which occurred in Laguna Niguel, was relatively small, but the wind drove embers into palm trees, attics and dense, dry brush on slopes and steep canyons that hadn’t burned for decades, Brian Fennessy, chief of the Orange County Fire Authority, said at an evening news conference.

The Orange County Fire Authority tweeted Thursday morning around 6 a.m. that the new size estimate is around 199 acres. Fennessy said climate change has made even small fires that once would have been easily contained into extreme threats to life and property throughout the West.

At a Thursday morning news conference, Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said the board will be working towards declaring a local state of emergency for the county.

GET THE LATEST UPDATES:

  • Orange County Sheriff's Office HERE
  • Orange County Fire Authority HERE

ACCOUNTS TO FOLLOW:

EVACUATIONS:

The Orange County Sheriff's Office says:

  • Mandatory Evacuations: Evacuation orders have been issued for north of the intersection of Flying Cloud Drive and Pacific Island Drive to the intersection of Highlands Avenue and Pacific Island Drive.
  • Voluntary Evacuation: Warnings have been issued for the area south of Flying Cloud Drive and Pacific Island Drive to the intersection of Pacific Island Drive and Crown Valley Parkway.

An evacuation warning has been lifted for the Balboa Nyes (Portafina) neighborhood in Laguna Beach. The sheriff's office said that residents who voluntarily evacuated can return to their homes but should remain alert.

Residents are asked to call the Orange County Emergency Operations Center at (714) 628-7085 for updates.

An evacuation center is set up at the Crown Valley Community Center at 29751 Crown Valley Parkway. 

Map of the evacuation zones from the Orange County Sheriff's Office:

FIRE MAP:

A map shows the latest fire activity:

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VIEW FROM ABOVE:  KABC's SkyMap7 shows the fire's destruction Wednesday evening:

WILDFIRE PREPS

According to Cal Fire, the 2021 fire season started earlier than previous years, but also ended earlier, as well. January 2021 saw just under 1,200 acres burned from nearly 300 wildfires. Fires picked up in the summer when the Dixie Fire burned in five Northern California counties — Butte, Plumas, Shasta, Lassen and Tehama. The Dixie Fire started on July 13 and wasn't contained until Oct. 25, burning nearly 1 million acres. It became the second-largest wildfire in state history and the largest non-complex fire.

Overall, 2.5 million acres burned in 2021 from 8,835 wildfires. Over 3,600 structures were destroyed and 3 people were killed. 

RELATED: EXPLAINER | Why is home protection important in wildfires?

If you live in a wildfire-prone zone, Cal Fire suggests creating a defensible space around your home. Defensible space is an area around a building in which vegetation and other debris are completely cleared. At least 100 feet is recommended.

WATCH: What you need to know to prepare, stay safe for wildfires

The Department of Homeland Security suggests assembling an emergency kit that has important documents, N95 respirator masks, and supplies to grab with you if you’re forced to leave at a moment’s notice. The agency also suggests signing up for local warning system notifications and knowing your community’s evacuation plans best to prepare yourself and your family in cases of wildfires.

Some counties use Nixle alerts to update residents on severe weather, wildfires, and other news. To sign up, visit www.nixle.com or text your zip code to 888777 to start receiving alerts. 

RELATED: Are you wildfire ready? Here's what to do to prepare for fire season.

PG&E customers can also subscribe to alerts via text, email, or phone call. If you're a PG&E customer, visit the Profile & Alerts section of your account to register.

What questions do you have about the latest wildfires? If you're impacted by the wildfires, what would you like to know? Text the ABC10 team at (916) 321-3310.

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