There is a longstanding, and largely unexplained, correlation between the laser damage susceptibility of optical components and both the surface quality of the optics, and the presence of near surface fractures in an optic. In the present work, a combination of acid leaching, acid etching, and confocal time resolved photoluminescence (CTP) microscopy has been used to study laser damage initiation at indentation sites. The combination of localized polishing and variations in indentation loads allows one to isolate and characterize the laser damage susceptibility of densified, plastically flowed and fractured fused silica. The present results suggest that: 1) laser damage initiation and growth are strongly correlated with fracture surfaces, while densified and plastically flowed material is relatively benign, and 2) fracture events result in the formation of an electronically defect rich surface layer which promotes energy transfer from the optical beam to the glass matrix.© (2009) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.