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Full containment near on fire that forced evacuations in Laguna Beach and Aliso Viejo, authorities say

Firefighters expect to reach full containment by Friday night on the brush fire that temporarily displaced thousands of Laguna Beach and Aliso Viejo residents last weekend, officials said.

Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said Friday morning that firefighters were nearing 100% containment on the Aliso fire, which broke out shortly after 1 p.m. June 2 below Laguna’s Top of the World neighborhood and behind Soka University in Aliso Viejo. The blaze chewed through 175 acres of thick brush.

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All Laguna Beach residents who were evacuated because of the fire, which was initially exacerbated by strong winds, were permitted to return to their homes the following day. Initially, 1,500 residents were evacuated from the Top of the World and Old Top of the World neighborhoods.

The blaze also forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 homes in Aliso Viejo. That order was lifted at 9 p.m. June 2 after authorities determined the fire was no longer a threat to those homes.

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After getting a handle on the fire over the weekend, crews have been increasing containment since Monday. Firefighters have been digging up and extinguishing hot spots under the surface for the past several days, authorities said.

“The nature of the root systems means they smolder for days at a time,” Fire Authority Battalion Chief Mike Summers said Tuesday. “We want to make sure the hot spots are truly out.”

Fire crews often remain at brush fires for days after active flames have been extinguished to watch for flare-ups and help park and wilderness agencies restore hiking trails. Firefighters also help prepare the area for potential flooding caused by the loss of ground cover and trees, Bommarito said.

Firefighters are expected to leave the area Friday night, he said.

Hundreds of firefighters from cities across Southern California, including Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, helped battle the blaze. Eleven air tankers and eight helicopters were on the scene over the weekend at the height of the fire, officials said.

Five firefighters suffered non-life-threatening injuries, officials said. No structural damage has been reported.

Investigators who are trying to determine what sparked the blaze are reviewing video from law enforcement and the public showing the area just as the fire got underway. So far, the cause is unclear.

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