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Firefighters clean up after a wildfire that threatened California's Laguna Beach

Firefighters watch as a wildfire burns on Thursday in Laguna Beach, Calif.
Ringo H.W. Chiu
Firefighters watch as a wildfire burns on Thursday in Laguna Beach, Calif.

A powerful brush fire that spanned more than 140 acres in Laguna Beach, Calif., is 20% contained as of Thursday evening, as authorities warn that the frequency of such fires is growing.

The blaze — dubbed the Emerald Fire — began early Thursday morning and fueled evacuation orders in parts of the city and closed local schools.

Even though it's the winter, the area is experiencing unseasonably high heat, strong winds and fire weather conditions, including high pressure and temperatures in the 80s and 90s, Orange County Fire Authority chief Brian Fennessy said Thursday. And it only takes wind and low-humidity to cause a fire, the fire chief added.

"We no longer have a fire season," Fennessy told reporters. "We have a fire year."

Orange County Fire Authority spokesperson Capt. Paul Holaday told reporters late Thursday afternoon that "at this point, we feel very confident that the perimeter of the fire is not going to continue" expanding.

Crews will continue to monitor for "hotspots and flare-ups" through the weekend, Holaday added.

All evacuation orders and warnings have been lifted, and there have been no reports of property damage, injuries or fatalities so far.

The fire in Laguna Beach, which was first reported at 4 a.m. Thursday, was one of several that broke out that day. Los Angeles County firefighters responded to a two-acre brush fire in Whittier, as well as a half-acre fire in Hawthorne, about 5 miles from Los Angeles International Airport.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rina Torchinsky