May 12, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Growing wildfire engulfs homes in drought-stricken Southern California

 Firefighters battle the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, CA, on Wednesday, May 11.
Firefighters battle the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, Calif., some 50 miles from Los Angeles, on May 11. Photo: Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A rapidly growing wildfire in Southern California triggered mandatory evacuations as it burned uncontained across about 200 acres of an upscale neighborhood over Wednesday night, authorities said.

Driving the news: The brush fire has burned at least 24 coastal homes as winds caused it to quickly spread across dry vegetation after igniting mid-afternoon near Aliso Wood Canyon, between Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.

  • The Orange County Sheriff's Office issued mandatory evacuation orders over the blaze, named the Coastal Fire, in the drought-stricken area for homes in the Laguna Niguel's Pacific Island area — where several multimillion-dollar mansions are located, CBS News reports.
  • "Moisture is so low that those fires are taking off and running," Orange County Fire Chief Brian Fennessy said at a briefing on Wednesday.

By the numbers: "More than 4,100 wildland firefighters and support personnel are assigned to incidents in the Southwest and Southern areas," per the National Interagency Fire Center.

The big picture: A heat wave combined with long-term drought and relentlessly high winds is yielding a historically prolonged period of high wildfire risk across much of the Southwest, and human-caused climate change is exacerbating the problem, Axios' Andrew Freedman writes.

  • Human-caused climate change, along with other factors, has caused a dramatic increase in the occurrence of large wildfires across the West and Southwest, per Freedman.

Meanwhile, California entered the dry season with its water resources in a precarious position, having seen its driest start to the year on record.

In photos: Coastal Fire razes two dozen homes
 Multiple homes on Pacific Island in Laguna Niguel burn in the wind whipped Costal Fire on Wednesday, May 11.
Multiple homes in the Pacific Island area of Laguna Niguel burn in the wind-whipped Coastal Fire on May 11. Photo: Mindy Schauer/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images
 A home with a flag burns to the ground in the Laguna Niguel Costal Fire on Wednesday, May 11
A home with a U.S. flag burns to the ground in the Laguna Niguel Coastal Fire on May 11. Photo: Mindy Schauer/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Firefighters battle the Coastal Fire near the intersection of Vista Montemar and Coronado Pointe in Laguna Niguel, CA, on Wednesday, May 11.
Firefighters battle the Coastal Fire near the intersection of Vista Montemar and Coronado Pointe in Laguna Niguel on May 11. Photo: Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images
A house on La Vue in in Laguna Niguel burns in the Costal Fire on Wednesday, May 11.
A house on La Vue in Laguna Niguel burns in the Coastal Fire on May 11. Photo: Mindy Schauer/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Multiple homes on Pacific Island in Laguna Niguel burn in the wind whipped Costal Fire on Wednesday, May 11
Multiple homes in the Pacific Island area of Laguna Niguel burn in the wind-whipped Coastal Fire on May 11. Photo: Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG
Firefighters battle the Coastal Fire near the intersection of Vista Montemar and Coronado Pointe in Laguna Niguel, CA, on Wednesday, May 11.
Firefighters battle the Coastal Fire near the intersection of Vista Montemar and Coronado Pointe in Laguna Niguel on May 11. Photo: Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images
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