Summit fire 85 percent contained

May 27, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Day six on the fire lines brings a dramatic change in the firefighting operation. Though full containment is expected by Tuesday afternoon - firefighters still see a huge potential danger.

Summit Road is still very much a trouble spot for firefighters and it is closed at this time. Crews are busy trying to protect homes and they are also starting a mop-up faze where they essentially go through brush piles looking for danger.

Firefighters are cutting and bulldozing their way along Summit Road. It's an area where fire still threatens some homes and hotspots still post a risk.

"We are on a 24-hour shift, we pushed all these piles before the fire and there is still a little bit of fire left in the piles, and we are going to break the piles apart so they can get all the fire and the hotspots out of the pile," said Jeff Bushey, Cal Fire.

Ground crews are busy walking the charred steep hillsides looking for burning embers and any green vegetation that could spark another fire.

"If we get another wind and it could take off on us - so that is the reason we are going to be in here taking care of business," said Ron Davis, Cal Fire.

While air support has been scaled down, the effort on the ground won't stop and the order from the command post is to also help residents.

The mop-up faze is not easy but crews say its necessary because they don't want to come back to a repeat event.

"The mop-up is a very important faze. Probably 80-percent of what we do out here is make sure this thing is out and contained," said Davis.

They are hoping to have this fire fully contained by Tuesday afternoon - that is ahead of schedule. The fire has already cost some $11.2 million to fight and 15 homes are still threatened along Summit Road. Cal Fire said it could be another 24 hours before things are opened back up.

Origin of fire still unknown

The exact cause and point of origin of the fire remain under investigation. But neighbors in the area believe they know where the fire started and how. Investigators are still looking into several accusations and theories. One comes from a resident of Madonna Ridge. He claims the fire started in the yard next to his, where workers have been clearing the property the past six weeks.

"A neighbor started this fire with permits as part of a controlled burn, but then he left it and burned stumps. Then the wind came up, kicked the fire, and all of a sudden the mountain was burning," said Joe Waddle, Santa Cruz mountain resident.

"They are looking at a number of issues and a number of causes," said Batt. Chief Dave Shew, Cal Fire.

Arson investigators have yet to reach any conclusions and there are still several other accusations to investigate. And there's no telling how long it will take for them to ultimately determine the cause.

Wait-and-see game for evacuees
Although some people have been able to stop by their home briefly in a guided Cal Fire tour, most still don't know when they'll be able to return for good.

It could be as late as Thursday before people are allowed back into some areas, and even when they are, they'll have to deal with the lack of water and power.

Mail delivery questions
U.S. Postal Service mail carriers from Los Gatos and Watsonville are expected to resume full deliveries to rural areas near the fire zone on Tuesday. In total, about 180 deliveries throughout the region were cancelled Friday because of the fire. Residents who missed deliveries can pick up mail at the Los Gatos Post Office on South Santa Cruz Avenue or the Watsonville Post Office on Main Street.

MAP: Summit fire location

Evacuations and Red Cross Information

  • Main evacuation number for the public: (408) 201-0474
  • If you live in Santa Cruz County and your home was destroyed or damaged - please call 831-454-3137

    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. Residents should contact CalFire at (831) 335-6717 or (831) 335-6718 for information on whether your home is in an evacuation area. (www.sccredcross.org)

    Click here for a map of evacuation points.

    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).

    A Morgan Hill RV company is offering to provide new trailers for families to temporarily stay in for free. Alpine RV said they will have at least three trailers ready this morning for fire victims in need. For more information you can call 1-800-290-9232

    Animal safety

    Residents with animals are encouraged to bring them to Sprig Lake on the eastside of Hecker Pass Highway. Livestock animals can also be brought to the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. Smaller animals, such as dogs and cats, can be brought to Santa Cruz County Animal Services at 27 Janus Way in Scotts Valley and in Watsonville at 580 Airport Boulevard.

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

    People needing assistance moving livestock should call (831) 454-7303.

    Summit fire images
    Send your pictures to photos@kgo-tv.com

    Friday (5/23) summit fire video

    Thursday (5/22) summit fire video

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