California homeowners survey Laguna Niguel wildfire damage

Heartbroken homeowners tearfully returned to the shells of their burned-out often multimillion-dollar homes a day after at least 20 were destroyed by California’s latest wildfire.

“It’s like Ukraine. It’s like a war zone here,” Fred Minager, a city council member and former mayor of the devastated community overlooking Laguna Beach, told Fox 11 on Thursday.

Minager had moved from the Big Apple in 1989 to the community of “very successful people that over the years have accumulated money to come and buy beautiful homes” in Laguna Niguel.

“It’s shocking to me to see their homes like this,” he told Fox 11 of the neighbors whose homes were razed by Wednesday’s blaze, which may have been sparked by electric utility equipment.

“There’s nothing to salvage. There’s nothing. Everything is burned. I can’t even recognize it.”

Sassan Darian — who saw his 5,000-square-foot home ablaze in TV footage after getting his family out just in time — made a similar analogy as he returned to the ruins of his home and Mercedes-Benz Thursday.

The fire’s cause is still under investigation.
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images
Laguna Niguel wildfire
Many residents returned to find homes completely destroyed.
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images
Laguna Niguel wildfire
One resident compared the damage to a “war zone.”
REUTERS/Mike Blake

“Everything is just demolished … Everything is smashed to smithereens and there’s just this random piece of metal, and it looked just like a war zone,” Darian told the Orange County Register.

Darian, 38, fled with his 7-year-old daughter and 62-year-old father while embers swirled around them — so late, they were terrified they too were about to burn, he recounted.

“It looked like an inferno, so we just jumped in the car,” he said, recalling how “the sky, everything was orange.”

“My daughter was yelling, ‘We’re on fire!’” he told the local outlet. “I felt myself, and there were embers on us. It was just an intense heat,” he said, recalling patting themselves down.

Laguna Niguel wildfire
A firefighter fights hotpots in a burned canyon behind homes destroyed by the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel.
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images
Laguna Niguel wildfire
In many homes, nothing was salvageable.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Laguna Niguel wildfire
One resident said just a “shell of a house” was left.
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

“I was in there yesterday living, and now it’s just a shell of a house and everything is gone,” he told the Orange County Register.

Still, he realized the blessing that “there was no death,” with initial reports saying two firefighters were hospitalized but no residents hurt.

“When I think about what’s happening in Ukraine, it may look like a war zone here, but at the end of the day, we’ll get the insurance, and we can replace things,” he told the local outlet.

Sandy Vogel told the Los Angeles Times that when they fled for safety, she “didn’t think our house was going to burn.”

“We didn’t know the house had burned until we saw it on the news,” she told the paper of the property she and her husband bought soon after it was built in the early 1990s.

“It’s 30 years’ worth of memories,” she told the paper, which said her voice cracked with emotion. “We’ll rebuild and we’ll see if we want to stay here. Maybe it’ll be too hard,” she conceded.

One homeowner surveying the damage, Lynn Morey, told the LA paper how firefighters had saved their silver-framed wedding photo before they had to give up trying to save her once-luxurious five-bedroom house with sweeping views of the Saddleback Mountains.

Sassan Darian holds his cat Cyrus as he stands in front of his family's fire-damaged home.
Sassan Darian holds his cat Cyrus as he stands in front of his family’s fire-damaged home.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Laguna Niguel fire
Shocked residents returned to survey the damage.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
people with luggage  Laguna Niguel, California
No deaths were reported in the blaze.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

“This brought some sunshine to my heart today,” she told the LA Times.

One of the homes destroyed was on the market for $9.9 million, with the listing boasting that it looked “like a California dream” with a two-level library, a “wellness wing” with a sauna and steam room and a pool on a terrace overlooking Laguna Beach.

The fire’s cause was under investigation and damage inspections were still ongoing on Thursday, Orange County Fire Authority Assistant Chief T.J. McGovern said. 

Southern California Edison reported that unspecified electrical “circuit activity” occurred around the time the fire broke out late Wednesday afternoon.

A fire aircraft drops red fire retardant the Coastal wildfire.
A fire aircraft drops red fire retardant on the wildfire.
© Ruaridh Stewart/ZUMA Press Wire
A burned Porsche sits outside one of over 20 homes destroyed by the Coastal fire on May 12, 2022 in Laguna Niguel,
The case of the fire is still under investigation.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

With Post wires