3,500-acre summit fire 25 percent contained

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, CA

About 50 homes around the community of Sveadal were evacuated there. To accommodate the new evacuees, a shelter has been set up at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill.

Since Thursday, 3,500 acres have burned and fire crews estimate they have 25 percent containment.

The cost of fighting this fire has risen to $3.2 million dollars and investigators so far have not been able to determine the cause.

On Summit Road, the northeast portion of the fire line, the big effort is to hold this fire line. There is plenty of equipment and personnel. The winds have been relatively light all day, at about 10 mph and that is helping crews build a stronger defense.

Peering down Rattlesnake Gulch, a blanket of smoke indicates that the fire continues to creep up the ridge toward the containment line marked by Summit Road.

Overnight, the fire raged up the gulch and jumped the line further east near Croy Road. 50 homes in the town of Sveadal to the north have been evacuated.

"We had an awful lot of wind last night that was blowing at 40-45 an hour up over the summit," says Battalion Chief Dave Shew.

Crews protect the line in two ways. The first thing they do is to downing of any tall trees. This is a critical point though. Firefighters stress about the importance of the containment line.

"The fuel's low to the ground. It would climb into the trees and cast embers across our line. This is a holding line."

The second task is the setting of backfires.

"We can wait for the fire to bump us and we can take follow up action, or we can set a backfire. When the two fires meet, the fire intensity dies down and we can take follow-up action. We'd rather set a backfire than let the fire hit us with a vengeance."

If the fire does jump the line, crews will get some help from old dozer lines dug out during the Croy fire six years ago. In the air, military technology is deployed, using infra-red cameras to track the fire's movement in real-time imagery.

"By seeing where the fire is and through the smoke, we know where the fire's spreading and we can get personnel to those hot spots," says Russ Miles of Cal Fire.

In the meantime, fire investigators are searching for the cause at the spot where the summit fire began - a lot on Summit Road near Maymens Flat.

"It's not a heavily populated area so it could be a number of things and they're eliminating all the possibilities, for example, we know it wasn't lightening because there weren't any storms that came through that morning," says Battalion Chief Dave Shew.

Saturday night's forecast says it will be less windy, but Friday night's breach of the fire line means the expected containment date of next Wednesday has now been pushed back to the end of next week.

CAL FIRE says the fire is at 25 percent containment.

The fire is currently burning in a four-mile stretch in Eureka Canyon, near the town of Corralitos.

It is burning in the mountain range that separates Santa Cruz County from Santa Clara County about 40 miles south of downtown San Jose and about 10 miles west of Gilroy.

The fire began at 5:30 Thursday morning. Some 1,000 acres burned by 9:00 a.m. and by noon the fire had exploded to over 3,200 acres.

The fire was first reported near Summit and Ormsby roads and is in the mountain range that separates Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.

Saturday Updates:
The Bay Area Air Quality management says that a smoke advisory will remain in effect until the fire is extinguished. People in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties are advised to stay indoors, if they step outside and smell smoke. They're also asked to try to avoid strenuous outdoor activities.

Friday night Updates:
An injured firefighter will be transported by a ground ambulance away from the fireline and airlifted out of the area. He had chest pains and suffered from fatigue. His injuries do not appear to be life threatening. >> Video: One firefighter was injured late Friday evening

Fire jumps fireline and firefighters fight spot fires in places where the fire has already passed.
>> Video: Fire jumps fireline near Summit Road

People in Corralitos who evacuated their homes are still waiting for the word to return.
>> Video: Evacuees wait for a second night to return

Evacuations and Red Cross Information

Mandatory evacuations are being ordered in the following locations:

  • Buzzard Lagoon
  • Hazel Dell
  • Lower Highland

Main evacuation number for the public: (408) 201-0474

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

CAL FIRE air base

The first planes sent in to fight the fire had to come all the way from Santa Rosa, 140 miles away. That's because the nearest CAL FIRE air base, in Hollister, wasn't scheduled to open until June 1. The bases serve as landing strips where tankers fly in, load up with retardant, and return to fight the fire. CAL FIRE called in its crews and managed to get the Hollister base up and running within a few hours.

Poor air quality

Doctors are warning about the danger of smoke particles in the air. This is especially problematic for anyone who suffers from heart or lung illnesses, such as emphysema and asthma.

In Watsonville, farm workers had to stop early in the day because the air quality was so bad.

The wind will help push the smoke out of the area, but that also contributes to spreading the fire itself.

On Friday, the wind shifted north, and health officials in Santa Clara County are advising residents with respiratory problems to stay indoors.

Closures

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

All Pajaro Valley Unified School District schools will be closed Friday. However, C.T. English Middle School and Loma Prieta Elementary School will also be closed on Friday.

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.

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