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Hiker comes face to face with Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel

Hiker escapes the fast-moving flames of the Coastal Fire
Hiker escapes the fast-moving flames of the Coastal Fire 03:34

Hiker Kyle Martin was right beside the scorching-hot Coastal Fire as he yelled at another group to back away from the fast-moving flames.

"Unbelievable," he said. "Literally, 30 seconds from being able to see all the houses on the ridge to fire engulfing them."


The Coastal Fire began at about 2:44 p.m. near the South Orange County Wastewater Authority's Coastal Treatment Plant, before quickly burning through the brush in Aliso Wood Canyon and uphill to the upscale Coronado Pointe gated community with multimillion-dollar estates.

The fire burned through 200 acres, consumed 20 homes and damaged 11 more, including Henry Cheng's. 

"I actually got into the house and firefighters did a wonderful job of putting out the fire, but they had to literally drill a hole," said Cheng.

With only a backpack and a suitcase, Cheng remains one of the hundreds evacuated from their homes and questions if anything else could've been done to save his community. 

"The problem is you would have to remove 90% of the growth," he said 

While firefighters said the brush clearance in Coronado Pointe was adequate the whipping winds sent the flames into the community. 

"Where the homes were located there off Coronado Pointe and Vista Montemar, they sit directly above some drainages that channel the winds," said Orange County Fire Authority Captain Shane Sherwood. "And the winds yesterday were extremely fast, extremely strong and when all three of those components come together there is very little that firefighting efforts can do."

 Investigators are still searching for the cause of the fire but Southern California Edison released a statement to state officials. 

"Our information reflects circuit activity occurring close in time to the reported time of the fire," the statement read. "Our investigation is ongoing."

An area of the fire was taped off by red and yellow crime time and officials said that it could either reflect an area of interest or a hazard on the firing line. 

Questions have risen if more firefighters need more resources now that Southern California has a year-round fire season. Orange County is one of three counties that uses a quick reaction force program which adds additional air support to the fight but it doesn't operate year-round. 

"Absolutely, they would've helped," OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy said. "But at the same time, the funding only provides for 165 days. If you asked me if I could only have them in November and December — absolutely." 

November and December are the months that are potentially the most destructive to property and can even lead to loss of life.

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