Cal Fire Taking Heat Over Summit Wildfire

Cal Fire Taking Heat Over Summit Wildfire

26 October 2009

published by

USA — Cal Fire is facing tough conditions and tough questions on the fire lines along the Santa Cruz and Santa Clara County lines.

Residents in the area of the fire named “Loma” claim recent control burns sparked the fire over the weekend that quickly blackened hundreds of acres. Cal Fire could not confirm reports that a controlled burn may have sparked the wildfire, adding that a team of investigators is exploring all possibilities.

Midday Monday Cal Fire lifted a mandatory evacuation order for residents of the Summit Road, Highland Way and Ormsby Cutoff areas. By noon officials said no homes were being threatened by the flames.

One man who lost his home said he actually witnessed smoldering embers from a control burn on Saturday.

One of the fire’s earliest victims were two families who lived on the same property. They lost most of what they owned.

Frank Dito said he woke up with just enough time to get himself and his daughter out alive.

“I’ve lost quite a bit and somebody gave me a pair of shoes this morning and a pair of pants and I got a sleeping bag,” Dito said.

While Cal Fire says the cause of the fire is still being investigated, neighbors including Dito are putting the blame on the agency itself.

“Cal Fire for the last eight days has been doing controlled burns right up the road where the fire originated and yesterday a neighbor and I went out there and the fires were still burning but they were not there. They were smoldering and then the wind came up and started the fire,” Dito said.

The fire was only 20-percent contained by Monday morning. Officials said their biggest challenge today will be the winds. The forecast calls for even stronger winds in the coming days. A wind advisory will be in effect Tuesday with possible gusts of up to 55 mph anticipated.

Cal Fire ordered hundreds of people to leave their homes in the Santa Cruz mountains Sunday morning after decided the flames threatened dozens of structures.

The wildfire burned northwest of Gilroy in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Two homes and several structures were destroyed Sunday.

The fire was first reported at 3 a.m. and had burned about 600 acres by midday, a Cal Fire spokeswoman said.

Road Closures:

* Maymens Flat Road
* Highland Way
* Ormsby Cut
* Loma Prieta
* Mt. Madonna
* Spanish Ranch

The fire is burning close to last summer’s Summit Fire that burned 35 homes in 2008.

Cal Fire set up a command post at the Santa Cruz County fairgrounds in Watsonville. Cal Fire says more than 1,000 people are fighting the fire. They list 100 engines and several helicopter and air tankers are on the scene.

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