250-acre Blaze Forces Residents to Flee Top of the World

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The fire as seen from Arch Beach Heights late this afternoon. Photo by Sande St. John.
The fire as seen from Arch Beach Heights late this afternoon. Photo by Sande St. John.

By Allison Jarrell, Special to the Independent

A rapidly spreading vegetation fire has broken out in Laguna Beach, spanning more than 250 acres and prompting immediate evacuations of the Top of the World and Old Top of the World neighborhoods, according to the Orange County Fire Authority and Laguna Beach Police Department.

“Immediate Evacuation Order means that there is an imminent threat to life and property,” LBPD officials said in a statement around 5:30 p.m. “People and their pets in the immediate Evacuation Order Area should evacuate now without delay.”

The evacuation area includes all neighborhoods along Alta Laguna Boulevard and down Park Avenue to Bern Drive and Temple Hills Drive to Dorn Court. Police said evacuations will likely last through Sunday morning.

“It is necessary to keep roads closed and people evacuated from Old Top of the World to Alta Laguna Park late into the evening and possibly early into tomorrow morning,” LBPD officials said. “There are road closures in that area to allow fire personnel to position themselves appropriately. We have two helicopters and three fixed wing plans and are monitoring the fire from the City’s Emergency Operations Center.”

The evacuation area in Laguna Beach. Image courtesy of Laguna Beach Police Department.
The evacuation area in Laguna Beach. Image courtesy of Laguna Beach Police Department.

No structures have been damaged thus far, according to OCFA officials. As of 6 p.m., 1,500 people had been evacuated.

OCFA reported one firefighter leg injury at 6:30 p.m. Containment was still at zero percent at that time, even though the wind had somewhat diminished.

A temporary evacuation shelter has been opened at the Susi Q Community Center, located at 380 3rd Street. LBPD officials said information and staff are available there to assist evacuees.

In the city of Aliso Viejo, mandatory evacuations also began around 5:30 p.m. for 2,000 homes in the area of Wood Canyon and Pacific Park to Wood Canyon and Laurel Lane.

Photo by Charlie Craig.
Smoke from the Aliso Fire seen from the beach. Photo by Charlie Craig.

Dubbed the Aliso Fire, the blaze grew from a 1-acre brush fire to more than 250 acres in a few hours, fueled largely by erratic canyon winds. Over 400 firefighters, four helicopters and six air tankers are on scene, with a unified command by OCFA, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Orange County Parks and Cal Fire. The fire was initially reported early in the afternoon on Saturday below Top of the World and behind Soka University.

Sgt. Jim Cota of the LBPD posted an update at 8 p.m. on Twitter:

A fire information hotline can be reached at 714-628-7085. To register for emergency alerts, visit www.alertoc.com. Or sign up for Nixle by texting 92651 to 888-777.

For ongoing updates, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net, follow @lagunabeachpd on Twitter and Facebook, or follow OCFA on Twitter and Facebook.


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