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Laguna Beach Wildfire Fifteen Years Ago – What Happened?

October 20, 2008|By Gene Felder, Board Member, Laguna Beach Historical Society

In this letter, we can’t share the photos used in the PowerPoint®, but the following is the text which was taken from the Orange County Fire Authority report “Orange County Firestorm 1993”, A Report to the County Board of Supervisors by Larry J. Holms,: 

Chief Holms also reported “Law enforcement used both north and southbound lanes of Coast Highway to channel bumper-to-bumper evacuation traffic out of the city: residents evacuated southward, while firefighters and their vehicles funneled in from the north. Fires hit the EI Morro Mobile Home Park, the community of Emerald Bay, Skyline Drive, Canyon Acres, and the Laguna Skyline area.” 

“The air tankers, delayed by priorities from the other numerous fires burning in Southern California at the time, would not arrive until approximately 1:40 p.m., 1 hour and 32 minutes from the initial request by the incident commander.” 


“OCFD's Laguna incident command staff believed immediate air support could have made the Laguna fire manageable during the first quarter hour of its spread. Helicopters could have made water drops on the head of the fire.” 

Today OCFA has two County firefighting helicopters.   At least one helicopter is staffed each day, with a crew of two, from the Fullerton Airport during daylight hours. A partial list of other improvements include building two large water reservoirs at high elevations, installation of 800 megahertz communication system, substantial widening of fuel modification zone around city, Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council's Red Flag Program, and fire condition signs. 

The web site of City of Laguna Beach has a two-minute video of the fire that is quite powerful. Just go to, and click “About Laguna” and “Video” going to

Step back into1920s Laguna by visiting the Laguna Beach Historical Society Murphy-Smith House, located at 278 Ocean Avenue, which is opened to the public at no-charge every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Volunteers are needed to greet visitors to the Murphy-Smith House and should call 939-7257.  

Those interested in supporting and joining the Laguna Beach Historical Society should send $15 per individual, $25 per household or $50 per business/organization to 278 Ocean Avenue, Laguna Beach CA 92651. The Laguna Beach Historical Society is a section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Tax ID #33-0519882. While supplies last, those donating $100 to the Laguna Beach Historical Society will receive a copy of Joan Irvine Smith’s book “A California Woman’s Story.” 

The PowerPoint and Chief Holms report are very large files. However, just provide us a CD disc, contact me at 295-4563, and we’ll happily burn you a copy at no-charge.

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