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Fire burns at least 12 homes in wealthy California town of Laguna Niguel


Wildfire swept through the wealthy Southern California enclave of Laguna Niguel on Wednesday, burning at least 12 homes while scorching about 200 acres (80 hectares) and prompting evacuations, officials said.

Though relatively small compared to major rural wildfires in the western states, the fire spread rapidly across the ridges of the Orange County community with afternoon winds.

Video posted on social media showed multimillion-dollar homes consumed with orange flames and billows of black smoke, while neighboring homes appeared untouched.

At least 12 homes burned and were likely destroyed, Brian Fennessy, fire chief of the Orange County Fire Authority, told ABC 7 Los Angeles television.

“It’s all about defending the homes that have not already burned,” Fennessy said from the scene. “The firefighters behind me are really putting on an aggressive fight.”

Fennessy said he expected winds to die down after sunset, which would help slow the spread, and that there were no other major fires in Southern California, enabling firefighters from the area to concentrate their resources on Laguna Niguel.

The hilltop city of about 65,000 people is just inland from the coastal city of Laguna Beach about 50 miles (80 km) south of Los Angeles. Dry brush covers the surrounding hills and canyons, as California experiences historic drought.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department ordered evacuations on numerous streets in the area, and an evacuation center was established at a community center.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Richard Pullin)

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