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A wildfire has destroyed at least 20 California mansions

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A firefighter works to put out a structure burning during a wildfire Wednesday in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Marcio J. Sanchez/Associated Press

(Bloomberg) — At least 20 homes were destroyed in a wealthy town in California’s Orange County after a wind-whipped wildfire grew out of control Wednesday afternoon, spurring evacuations in other neighborhoods around the blaze.

The blaze, called the Coastal Fire, has consumed at least 195 acres in Laguna Niguel, about 55 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the Orange County Fire Authority said in a tweet. Residents have been evacuated from Laguna Niguel, while the officials said there’s no immediate threat to Laguna Beach.

At least 20 homes were burned from the blaze that started near a water treatment plant Wednesday and then quickly moved upslope, pushed on by high winds, Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said at a press conference. The initial 911 emergency call came in at 2:44 p.m. local time, and the caller said the fire was still only about 50 feet by 50 feet.

“What we saw today is not something we’re used to seeing this time of year or even during these types of conditions,” Fennessy said.

He said the blaze is an example of how wildfires are now prevalent throughout the year in California, when they used to occur primarily in late summer and fall. Vegetation in California and throughout the West is so dry that fires can spread rapidly.

“Unfortunately, this is what I believe we are going to be experiencing over the next several months and over the next several years,” Fennessy said.

Gale warnings are up just off the California coast through Friday as winds are expected to reach about 35 miles per hour, the National Weather Service said. Onshore, a wind advisory is in place across towns north of Los Angeles. In the area around the fire, winds could reach about 25 miles per hour under sunny and dry conditions, the Weather Service said.

The blaze is one of three currently burning across California, according to the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, commonly known as Cal Fire. The two others are the House Fire near Fresno and the Moonlight RX fire in the Plumas National Forest in Northern California. So far this year, 1,561 fires have scorched 6,718 acres.

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