Hundreds of people were allowed to return home Friday after a Southern California wildfire raced through an upscale, oceanside community, scorching more than 30 houses.
Officials in the city of Laguna Niguel, south of Los Angeles, said in a news release that a mandatory evacuation zone of 900 homes had dropped to just 131.
The announcement came as powerful winds eased and firefighters continued to battle stubborn flames of a blaze dubbed the Coastal Fire.
By Friday afternoon, the fire was 25 percent contained after having charred at least 200 acres, destroyed 20 homes and damaged 11 more, the Orange County Fire Authority reported.
About 563 firefighters are battling the blaze, according to the OCFA. Two firefighters were injured but have been released from the hospital.
Local winds across Orange County were not expected to reach more than 10 mph on Friday, down from peak gusts of 16 mph on Thursday and 30 mph on Wednesday afternoon when the wildfire ignited.
Laguna Niguel residents Keith and Lynn Morey lost all of their possessions in their five-bedroom home that went up in flames.
But the 68-year-old health supplement manufacturer said he won’t dwell on the destruction.
“There’s going to be hiccups in your life, and this is a hell of a hiccup. But instead of looking back, I’m looking forward,” he told NBC News on Friday. “I’m not going to cry in my milk. You always get through it — why ponder on it?”
One of the few items that firefighters pulled from the rubble of the burned-down house was a framed picture from their wedding day.
“We lost everything, so that was really special when we got this from the house — that made my day,” Lynn Morey said.
Sassan Darian, 38, and his young daughter had recently moved back into his childhood home that’s now burned to the ground.
The flames, though, didn’t wipe out Darian’s fond memories, such “a crazy house party I had there in my early 20s when the police had to come to break it up.”
“Everyone is safe and sound,” Darian said Friday. “I mean there’s no injuries or death, not just us but that’s the whole neighborhood, so that’s the perspective (to have).”
Helen Kwong contributed.