UPDATED: Firefighters working brush fire burning off 73 toll road in Laguna Coast Wilderness

A CH-47 helitanker operated by Coulson Aviation drops water on a brush fire burning off SR-73 west of Laguna Canyon Road on June 16. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Firefighters were working to extinguish a vegetation fire off State Route 73 west of Laguna Canyon Road that had grown to about 11 acres by Thursday morning.

About 100 firefighters were still on scene Thursday doing mop-up on hot spots, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Greg Barta said. The fire was at 60% containment by 10 a.m. on Thursday.

Around 3:03 p.m. on Wednesday, authorities received a 911 call of three separate fires, each about a quarter-acre in size, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Sean Doran said. The fire is burning in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park but firefighters have largely stopped the fire on a ridge-top overlooking the toll road.

“Forward progress for us has stopped now we’re working on perimeter control and hotspots,” Doran said Wednesday.

Fire agencies have deployed more than 150 firefighters equipped with engines, water tenders, bulldozers, hand crews, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft. Orange County Fire Authority’s Quick Reaction Force, including a very large helitanker and a reconnaissance helicopter, also responded from Fullerton Airport.

CalFire and the Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Anaheim, Orange, and Brea fire departments are assisting on the fire, Doran said. A CalFire-trained inmate hand crew from the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation was also brought in to man the fire line.

State Route 73 was still closed to traffic between Newport Coast Drive and Laguna Canyon Road until late Wednesday evening. All northbound lanes reopened around 8:45 p.m., according to a Transportation Corridor Agency tweet. Two right lanes of the southbound 73 were still closed early Thursday while fire crews remain on the scene, Sigalert reports.

Mayor Bob Whalen said Thursday that the quick, persistent aerial attack by multiple aircraft was a key factor in containing the blaze.

“We count so much on our fire department and mutual aid from cities around us and I can’t thank them enough for their quick response, preparedness, and readiness,” Whalen said.

This story is developing and will be updated as necessary.

An Orange County Fire Authority hand crew walks on SR-73 during a brush fire on June 16. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
Orange County Fire Authority investigators survey damage from a brush fire on SR-73 west of Laguna Canyon Road on June 16. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
A firefighter hand crew works to contain the fire line during a brush fire off SR-73 on June 16. Photo by Daniel Langhorne


A CalFire helicopter prepares to drop water on a brush fire off SR-73 on June 16. Photo by Daniel Langhorne
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