OCFA ends investigation of 11-acre brush fire in Laguna Beach, cause remains undetermined

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

An investigation of the June 16 blaze that burned 11 acres off State Route 73 has concluded and the cause remains undetermined, an Orange County Fire Authority spokesperson said Tuesday.

Firefighters quickly stopped the fire from advancing into Laguna Canyon thanks to a quick response by firefighting aircraft, including a very large helitanker contracted by the Fire Authority.

Fire investigators scientifically approach every blaze and hypotheses are tested and eliminated, said Capt. Sean Doran, a spokesperson for the Orange County Fire Authority.

“While you or I or the public may conjecture on possible causes, fire investigators are held to these methods to assure their investigations are founded in facts only,” Doran wrote in an email.

City leaders have described the event as a reminder of Laguna Beach’s very high fire hazard severity and the importance of continuing wildfire mitigation efforts.

Laguna Beach fire chief Mike Garcia, speaking through a city spokesperson, declined requests to comment on the investigation’s result. He wasn’t available Thursday to comment on what his department is doing to prevent future brush fires from breaking out along the toll road.

La Niña weather patterns this winter are projected to exacerbate the state’s ongoing drought, maintaining the hazardous dry conditions in open spaces across the region.

Laguna Beach is actively taking steps to reduce the wildfire risk throughout town—new fire breaks also known as wildfire fuel modification zones are in the planning stages. City officials estimate the permitting process for a $1 million project in South Laguna will be completed by the end of this year, starting the development of the fuel mitigation zone in early 2022, Wildland Fire Defense and Fuels Program Manager Mike Rohde said. The project is estimated to take two years to complete.

Bluebird Canyon and Park Avenue are expected to get similar treatments and initial clearing is expected to begin in July 2022.

Since early October, two cameras facing the Laguna Greenbelt are monitored and controlled by the Fire Authority. They’re also part of the multi-state Alert Wildfire system coordinated by UC San Diego; University of Nevada, Reno, and University of Oregon.

Laguna’s specific cameras are labeled as AlisoLaguna 1 and AlisoLaguna 2 and can be viewed here.

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