Fire breaks out above The Ranch, moves east, eventually destroying exclusive Laguna Niguel neighborhood

The Laguna Niguel Coastal Fire started Wednesday afternoon shortly before 3 p.m. in the Aliso Woods Canyon area. Laguna Beach Fire responded assuming positioning to battle what was first reported “a three-acre vegetation fire.”

Fire photo 1 fire engines

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Photo by Mark Christy

LBFD equipment and personnel are positioned above and behind The Ranch after early reports of a small fire

Initial mandatory evacuation orders came for The Ranch, and later voluntary orders were suggested for the Balboa Nyes neighborhood.

With onshore winds, the fire moved up through the canyon and over the hill, away from Laguna Beach, toward the community of Laguna Niguel. 

The fire gained in strength as fuel sources were plentiful and winds fanned the flames. Red fire retardant began becoming visible on the surrounding hills as aircraft joined the fight.

Fire photo 2 dog and people in foreground

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Residents moved to higher positions in the hills to see the damage and the path of the fire

As the fire moved east, reports changed announcing no immediate fire threat remaining to the City of Laguna Beach. Fire crews continued to monitor and put out hot spots in Aliso Woods Canyon and Laguna Beach residents were reminded to remain vigilant and alert.

Cal Fire aircraft continued dropping fire retardant attempting to gain perimeters around the fire.

Fire photo 3 plane and red retardant

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Photo by Scott Brashier

As the fire continued to move east, planes aggressively attacked the fire with retardant attempting to gain a perimeter. Laguna Niguel residences can be seen in the distance through the smoke.

The Laguna Beach’s Helipod water refilling station was used throughout the day and other aircraft continued to fill the skies as the size of the fire increased to several hundred acres, involving some 550 firefighters.

Fire photo 4 two airplanes

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Cal Fire aircraft battled throughout the day and into the evening

By evening, according to the Orange County Fire Authority, 20 Laguna Niguel homes were destroyed, with another 11 homes damaged. Two firefighters were injured, both of which have been released from the hospital.

As of last evening, the blaze was 15% contained.

Fire photo 5 plume with houses

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Photo by Cyrus Polk

Once over the hill from Laguna Beach, the fire exploded with devastation in its path