SANTA CRUZ COUNTY (KPIX) — Cal Fire says the 40 firefighters on the ground at a controlled burn in the hills above Watsonville Friday simply were not enough when the winds picked up and began to carry embers beyond their carefully constructed containment lines.

“They just weren’t able to corral those spots quickly enough. So, they had to call in additional resources,” says Cal Fire CZU Division Chief Angela Bernheisel.

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The fire that was supposed to clear five to ten acres of brush ballooned instead to nearly 150. It would ultimately take more than ten times the number of firefighters originally on the scene to bring the burn back under control.

As of Monday morning, the fire was 60% contained. Firefighters were aided by rain overnight. A Monday evening update raised containment on the fire to 80%.

“It’s so dry. And everybody knows it’s so dry. And they have it posted everywhere. There should be no reason in the world to do a controlled burn no matter where it is or who’s doing it,” said a man near the scene of the fire who did not want to give his name.

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He said he believes Cal Fire made a massive error in judgement by not aborting the controlled burn as weather conditions changed.

Cal Fire says what’s come to be known as the Estrada Fire began as a long-planned controlled burn — part of the state’s Vegetation Management Program. The program is supposed to reduce the risk of large-scale wildfires. Chief Bernheisel says the timing of the controlled burn was itself a calculated risk.

“If we were to go in there in the spring when everything’s lush and green, it wouldn’t work. It would be totally useless,” she said.

Chief Bernheisel says the agency is analyzing its mistakes and is committed to avoid similar failures in the future.

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“Nobody got hurt this time but ‘What if?’ I don’t think they should have made a decision like this on a what if,” said a resident.