Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stuctures Burning In Summit Fire

Raging Fire Devours Santa Cruz Mountain Buildings

SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS (CBS 5 / AP / BCN) ― A wind-whipped wildfire burned at least 10 structures in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Thursday morning, prompting some mandatory evacuations off of Summit Road.

The blaze, first reported around 5:30 a.m., had grown to about 2,000 acres by 10:00 a.m. The flames sent a thick cloud of smoke into the air that could be seen from 19th Ave. in San Francisco.
The fire is in the mountain range that separates Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties, and the rural area is dotted with homes. At least 90 homes were evacuated as a result of the blaze.

"Our main priority is evacuations, getting people out safely," said Chris Morgan, a state fire prevention specialist. "Then we can start working the perimeter of the fire."

In addition to ensuring residents evacuate, firefighters from Cal Fire and other fire agencies are dropping retardant on the flames from air tankers and have brought in additional water supplies, according to Morgan.

Fire officials said about 500 firefighters were on the scene, or enroute to help.

Evacuation centers have been set up throughout the counties and the American Red Cross has responded to render aid, according to Morgan. Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville was set up as the primary evacuation site for those ordered to leave there homes.

Residents with animals, including horses, may bring them to Sprig Lake on the east side of Hecker Pass Highway, Morgan said.

Wind gusts blowing southwest up to 40 mph were fueling the flames, said National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Anderson.

"The major factor is just the winds at this point," Anderson said. "It will continue to fuel the fire as the winds continue to be breezy today."

The temperature near the top of a ridge that is 10 miles south of the where the fire is burning was 42 degrees at 9 a.m. and is forecasted about 60 degrees, while canyon areas are expected to be in the mid 60s, according to Anderson.

Summitt and Ormsby roads burned and there was no estimated time for containment, Cal Fire spokeswoman Colleen Baxter said.

Mount Madonna School on Summit Road on the border of Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties was closed due to the blaze near Mount Madonna County Park.

C.T. English Middle School and Loma Prieta Elementary School in the Loma Prieta School District in Los Gatos also closed Thursday.

No injuries were reported, according to Baxter. Summitt Road at Mount Madonna Road was closed, as was Pole Line Road, and eureka canyon road according to the California Highway Patrol. Several other roadways in the area had been shut down, but Highway 17 remained open after 10 a.m.

Source Article: CBS News

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.

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