3,200-acre summit fire 25 percent contained

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, CA

Cal Fire spokesman this evening said the fire, which has burned about 3,200 acres so far, is around 25 percent contained.

"It's going to be through the weekend," he said regarding an estimated time for containment.

Earlier today, Cal Fire spokesman George Hoyt said investigators have traced the blaze to an area where Summit Road becomes Loma Prieta Avenue at the Santa Clara-Santa Cruz counties border.

"That's the area. How it started, that's still under investigation," Hoyt said.

A total of 27 buildings have been destroyed by the flames, including 17 homes. Another 500 buildings are still considered to be threatened by the fire.

The fire broke out before 5:30 a.m. Thursday and has been estimated to have already cost an estimated $1.72 million in suppression efforts.

Lighter winds and higher humidity in the area meant the blaze transitioned today from a wind-driven fire to one moving along the slope of the western side of the Santa Cruz Mountains near the town of Corralitos. The biggest challenge firefighters currently face are the steep canyons and heavy brush, according to Cal Fire spokesman Chris Morgan.

"It's a complete difference from yesterday," Morgan said, referring to Thursday's wind gusts up to 40 mph that fueled the blaze.

National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said the winds increased this afternoon to about 10 mph with gusts up to 20 mph, but didn't approach Thursday's levels.

The wind direction sent the flames southeast on Thursday but has now turned northeast.

"That, of course, is a concern because that pushes the fire in a direction it hasn't been before," Dykema said. "Firefighters definitely have to keep an eye out for the fire moving in a different direction."

The blaze has created unhealthy air in both Santa Cruz County and the Santa Clara Valley, according to health officials. Local residents should avoid unnecessary outdoor activities and stay indoors as much as possible.

"People really need to pay attention to the air quality as they consider spending time outdoors this weekend, especially when it comes to doing any physical activity," Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Marty Fenstershieb said. "If you can see or smell smoke in the air you may want to hold off biking, running or other strenuous physical activity until the air clears."

Residents with respiratory problems as well as young children and the elderly should be especially cautious, and doors and windows should be kept closed. Health officials also warned that homegrown produce should be thoroughly washed before consumption.

Santa Cruz County residents with health concerns and questions can call (831) 454-4000 during work hours or (831) 458-7185 over the weekend. Santa Clara County residents with health questions should call 211.

Displaced residents, domestic pets and livestock may seek shelter again today at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds, located at 2601 E. Lake Ave. in Watsonville, sheltered more than 24 people and more than 200 horses Thursday.

Shrew said there is still no estimated time for when residents will be able to return to their homes, but a community meeting is being organized for Sunday afternoon in the Corralitos area in order to inform residents about returning home and other information.

Classes were canceled for the second day today for some students in the area. Pajaro Valley Unified School District and Loma Prieta School District are closed today, according to the districts' Web sites.

CAL FIRE investigators have pinpointed the fire's origin, to an empty lot at Summit Road and Loma Prieta, where it appears someone had been clearing away brush.

/*Governor Schwarzenegger*/ has declared a state of emergency for the area. He visited the Santa Cruz Mountains Friday to assess the damage from a wildfire that chewed through centuries-old redwoods and pushed hundreds out of their homes.

Gov. Schwarzenegger arrived at the /*CAL FIRE*/ base camp in Gilroy shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Friday for a briefing on the progress of the Summit Fire.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday issued the following statement and proclamation:

"I want to extend my deepest appreciation to the brave firefighters. 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.

Following the briefing Schwarzenegger met with reporters then greet and thank firefighters at the base camp for their efforts.

A favorable weather pattern is helping the firefighters. Winds did pick up Friday afternoon, but it is expected to be a cooling wind out of the west with humidity. The winds died down overnight which helped the crews get more containment.

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.

MAP: Summit fire location

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.

>> VIDEO: ABC7's Terry McSweeney reports

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.

Summit fire images
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Friday (5/23) summit fire video

Thursday (5/22) summit fire video

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