Friday, May 23, 2008

Summit Fire 20% Contained

Friday Forecast Good News For Summit Fire

Fog Layer Could Help Ground Crews

Cal Fire officials based in Morgan Hill have reported that winds have died down, bringing hope that the Summit Fire may not spread as quickly in the early Friday morning hours.

Authorities said that crews burned some areas to set lines as protection so that the fire would not burn into
Santa Clara County.

A layer of fog about 2,000 feet deep moved into the area of the Summit Fire overnight, which created colder conditions that could make it tougher for the flames to spread.

"That makes it tough for air crews to drop flame retardant on the burn area, but easier for firefighters to work against the flames on the ground,"
Herrera said.

People in the
Santa Clara Valley reported smelling smoke from the fire Friday morning.

A group of 500 new firefighters will join the firefight Friday morning, CalFire Batallion Chief Mark Tolbert said. That brings the total number of firefighters battling the wildfire to 1,200.

Residents of about 1,400 homes were under evacuation orders -- 336 of them mandatory.

Late Thursday afternoon Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the
Santa Cruz Mountain fire zone a state of emergency. The governor's office said he planned not only to visit the staging area in Gilroy on Friday to get an update first hand, but that he might meet with firefighters and possibly travel somewhat close to the front lines.

The wildfire has burned at least 3,100 acres near Mount Madonna County Park about 10 miles west of Gilroy as of 5:30 a.m. Friday.

Fire officials on Thursday estimated the fire could spread to 10,000 acres before they can put it out. Officials said at 6 p.m. on Thursday that the fire was moving east and residents of Redwood Road should evacuate immediately.

About 400 homes in the Mount Madonna County Park area, specifically Buzzard Lagoon, Vaca del Sol and Lower Highlands neighborhoods, were evacuated or in the process by about 5 p.m., according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Ken McGeever. There have been no reports of injuries.

The fire had periodically been traveling southwest toward the Pacific Ocean.

"I want to extend my deepest appreciation to the brave firefighters," the governor said. "As I've said many times before, we have the most courageous, talented and best trained firefighters in the world. They are doing a great job fighting the Summit Fire."

The fire started at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday off Summit Road near Loma Prieta Road in the Santa Cruz mountains. Officials do not know the cause of the fire yet. One resident, Kenneth Kim, said he smelled smoke and saw flames when he went to use an outhouse. He said he called 911 to report the fire.

Cal Fire reports at least 10 homes and two structures have been destroyed and another 50 homes are threatened.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Ken McGeever said residents living in the path of the fire needed "to be prepared to evacuate in a moment's notice."

Two smaller fires, the Quail Hollow fire and the La Selva Beach fire, were contained.

Twelve people and 200 horses were being sheltered at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds.

Road closures were in effect at Quail Hollow at Glen Arbor Road, Poleline Road at Hwy. 152 and Corallitos Road at Varney Summit Road east of San Jose.

The fire is burning about seven miles east of Highway 17.

Cal Fire evacuated residents along Loma Prieta Road south to Corralitos Road.

Many of the evacuees gathered at the Corralitos Market throughout the day Thursday to wait for news of their homes.

Gray-black smoke filled the sky and was reportedly visible from as far as Richmond in the East Bay, Cal Fire spokesman Chris Morgan said.

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

Evacuation centers have been set up throughout the counties and the American Red Cross has responded to render aid, according to Morgan.

Evacuation Orders: At Least 120 Structures At:

· Upper Browns Valley Road and Avocado

· Hidden Canyon

· Hazel Dell Road

· Maymens Flat Road (at least one home destroyed there)

· Ornsby Cutoff Road

· Lower Highland

· Buzzard Lagoon

· Vaca Del Sol

· Nisene Marks Evacuated And Closed

Firefighters from most counties throughout the Bay Area have been sent to assist.

Some roads in the area are blocked. Summit Road at Mount Madonna Road is closed as well as Pole Line Road, according to the California Highway Patrol. Corralitos Road at Freedom is closed and Varney at Corralitos is also closed.

Dozens of homes and ranches are scattered throughout the mountainous area. Chopper11 showed several structures destroyed by the flames.

Wind gusts on the fire line reached 45 to 50 mph Thursday, making the fire harder to fight.

There is no estimated time for containment, Cal Fire spokesman Chris Morgan said.

About 170 students were evacuated Thursday morning from the Koinonia Conference Grounds, 1605 Eureka Canyon Road, in the Watsonville area.

Students from throughout Santa Cruz County who were participating in the outdoor science school were evacuated, said Pablo Dillon, guest services manager for the grounds.

Mount Madonna School on Summit Road on the border of Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties also is closed due to the blaze.

All Pajaro Unified School District schools and four County Office of Education community school will be closed Friday.

Loma Prieta School and C.T. English schools were open Friday.

Source: NBC News

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