SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS (CBS SF) – A wildfire has grown to 2,250 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains of southern Santa Clara County since Monday afternoon, destroying one home, damaging another and leading to hundreds of evacuations, according to Cal Fire.
The Loma Fire sparked in the area of Loma Prieta and Loma Chiquita roads about 10 miles northwest of Morgan Hill around 2:50 p.m. Monday, Cal Fire officials said.
The area is north of the border between Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, where a large plume of smoke could be seen for miles.
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On Monday, the fire had spread to more than 400 acres as of 5:40 p.m., and grown to 1,000 acres by 9:30 p.m.
The blaze has charred through 2,250 acres and was 10 percent contained as of 7 p.m. Tuesday, Cal Fire officials said.
It has spread to the Mount Loma Prieta, Mount Chual and Uvas Creek drainages, Cal Fire officials said.
The fire is reportedly burning in steep, inaccessible terrain covered in dry, drought-stressed fuels.
One home and six outbuildings have been destroyed by the fire since it started Monday.
Roughly 300 structures are threatened and numerous residents of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties have been evacuated, Cal Fire officials said.
Reverse 911 calls have been sent to affected Santa Clara County residents through the AlertSCC notification system, Cal Fire officials said.
Residents have been ordered to leave the Loma Prieta ridgeline area that includes all tributary roads along Summit Road from Soquel San Jose Road to Ormsby Fire station. This includes Uvas Canyon County Park, Loma Chiquita, Casa Loma, Highland Road and Mount Bache Road.
Portions of Croy Road are also under an evacuation warning, Cal Fire officials said.
Wednesday afternoon, the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Department announced that evacuation orders were lifted for Rancho Prieta Road,
Loma Prieta Way, Pacific Rim, Mount Bachi Road, Summit Road, Haven Hill Lane and Ormsby Cutoff and Trail.
Authorities noted that road closures would remain in effect for non-residents until further notice.
Cooler weather and more humidity meant the flames were much calmer Wednesday, allowing helicopter pilots to come in low to make surgical water drops right on the flames.
Those bucket drops cool off the area enough so that firefighters on the ground can safely bushwhack towards the smoke and hunt those flames down.
“I think we’re certainly making progress,” fire spokesperson Bill Murphy. “There’s still a lot of work to do. I think if the weather continues to cooperate — we’ve got a little lower temperature today, relative humidity was a little bit higher — we’ll continue to make progress.”
Crews continue to clear brush and cut lines and hope that Mother Nature is on their side again Thursday.
An evacuation center initially set up at Soquel High School at 401 Old San Jose Road in Soquel has moved to the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds’ Grange Hall at 2601 East Lake Avenue in Watsonville, county officials said.
Other centers are available at the Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley at 14855 Oka Road in Los Gatos and Morgan Hill Presbyterian Church at 16970 De Witt Ave. in Morgan Hill, Cal Fire officials said.
Traffic has been blocked in multiple areas including Loma Chiquita Road, Summit Road from Soquel San Jose Road to Pole Line Road, Mount Bache Road at Highland Road, Casa Loma Road at McKean Road, which becomes Uvas Road, Mount Madonna Road at Ormsby Road and Mount Madonna Road at Pole Line Road.
Croy Road at Uvas Road is open to residents only, Cal Fire officials said.
More than 800 firefighters are working to extinguish the blaze with assistance from helicopter, bulldozer and water tender crews, according to Cal Fire.
Many firefighters from throughout California have been sent to help extinguish the blaze working under 24-hour shifts, fire Capt. Brian Oliver said.
The high temperatures have increased the need for crews to stay hydrated and stay ahead of the “fatigue factor,” Oliver said.
The state’s Office of Emergency Service has sent its large animal rescue volunteer group to rescue horses and other livestock, according to Oliver.
Those with livestock can seek assistance at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds and Santa Cruz County Horsemen’s Association grounds on Graham Hill Road, American Red Cross officials said.
The blaze has led to a power outage for 191 PG&E customers in Santa Clara County as of Tuesday afternoon, utility officials said.
PG&E crews were sent to Uvas and Croy roads Tuesday afternoon to cut vegetation near power poles and spray the poles with fire retardant to lessen the chance of damage from the blaze, according to PG&E.
No injuries had been reported as of 7 p.m. Tuesday. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Anyone looking for more information on the fire can call the Loma Fire public hotline at (408) 779-0930.
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