Update: Massive wildfire in Santa Cruz Mountains

May 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Governor Schwarzenegger will be in Gilroy today to be briefed on the massive wildfire burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The governor declared a state of emergency for Santa Cruz County. So far, the fire has destroyed at least ten homes and more than 3,000 acres.

Firefighters from across the state worked late into the night, hoping shifting winds will also shift the momentum in their direction. "Now the winds have shifted more toward the south and it's given us more breathing room," said Cal-Fire Engineer Jared Koos.

Early Thursday, northwesterly winds with gusts of up to 50 miles an hour sent flames ripping through the mountains, destroying at least ten homes along the way.

"We just don't know if our house got burned. Above us is burned, below us is burned," said evacuee Angela Alatorre.

Dozens of residents in the small community of Corralitos were among hundreds who had to evacuate. Firefighters say the area is no longer considered at risk, but some people are still waiting to return home.

"Most people have been pretty calm about it and accepted that this is an uncontrollable situation and they're just trying to get through the best they can," said resident and volunteer Rod Tillery.

Even those who live further from the flames have been affected by the thick smoke and concern for their family and friends. One woman's son was on a field trip when the fire broke out. "It was a little unnerving because I couldn't get in touch with him," said Terry Martinez, a Santa Cruz County resident.

Terry Martinez learned her son was fine, but her daughter, who's a student at Fresno State, still had many reasons to worry. "All of her friends, she graduated in this area from high school, and she knows many people who have homes in the Santa Cruz area," said Martinez.

Those homes are now being protected by hundreds of firefighters, plus several air tankers and helicopters. But now firefighters hope the weather will also stay on their side. "Tonight it tends to get cool and the humidity comes up and it gives us a chance to really get the upper hand in putting control lines," said Koos.

Governor Schwarzenegger is expected to visit the area later today. He'll be stopping by Gilroy for a briefing on the fire.

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Evacuations
Evacuations numbers for the public:
831 335-5355
831 335-6717
831 335-6718
831 335-6719

Mandatory evacuations have been issued for the following areas:

Redwood Road to Hazel Dell Road (approximately 20 structures)
Approximately 120 structures at: Upper Browns Valley Road and Avocado, Hidden Canyon, Hazel Dell Road Over 200 horses have been evacuated to the Fairgrounds. A summer camp was evacuated with up to 200 kids in the Highlands Canyon area. Over 1,400 residents have undergone voluntary evacuations around Eureka Canyon Road. About 320 homes were under mandatory evacuation orders.

Evacuation sites have also been set up at Loma Prieta Elementary School and Mount Madonna County Park.

The American Red Cross has opened temporary evacuation centers in the Crosetti Building at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, located at 2601 East Lake Avenue in Watsonville, and at the Los Gatos Community Center located at 208 East Main Street in Los Gatos. The American Red Cross will be providing food, a safe place to rest and counseling until evacuated residents are allowed to return to their homes.

Cochrane Road Self Storage is offering two months of free storage to anyone in affected areas. For more information contact (408) 782-8883 ( 411 Woodview Ave. in Morgan HIll).

Closures: Road closures have been ordered for Summit, Mount Madonna and Pole Line roads, as well as at Corralitos & Freedom and Varney & Corallitos.

All Pajaro Valley Unified School District schools will be closed tomorrow.

If you would like to adopt an animal that has been rescued from the fire, contact Santa Cruz Animal Services at (831)454-7303.


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