Bear Fire burns in Santa Cruz Mountains, threatens 150 homes

A 150-acre wildfire in the Santa Cruz Mountains is 5 percent contained at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, according to Cal Fire.
A 150-acre wildfire in the Santa Cruz Mountains is 5 percent contained at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, according to Cal Fire. Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel

Bear Fire

What: Around 150 homes evacuated due to the Bear Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Evacuated areas: Bear Creek Canyon, Bear Creek Road from Highway 35 to Hawk Ridge, Dons Road, Ron’s Road, Deer Creek, Sunset Ridge, Lost Valley, Gordon Ridge, Hawk Ridge, Los Cumbres, Beatty Ridge, Griffly Rock, Miller Ridge, Reed Knoll Road and Knuth Road.

Road closures: Bear Creek Road at highways 9 and 35.

Status: 150-acre fire at 5 percent containment as of 8:45 a.m. Tuesday.

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY >> A 152-acre wildfire in the Santa Cruz Mountains was 5 percent contained at 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to Cal Fire.

The fire is an immediate threat to about 150 homes. All residents have been evacuated successfully from those homes, and no one is trapped behind the fire lines, according to Cal Fire.

A fire at a house, which started at about 10:30 p.m. Monday on the 800 block of Bear Canyon Road, destroyed the home and spread to the forest in the Deer Creek area. As of 10 a.m., Tuesday, four structures have been destroyed by the Bear Fire, as it’s now called.

Angela Bernheisel, Cal Fire spokeswoman, said five firefighters sustained minor injuries through the night.

“It’s really steep out there,” Bernheisel said. “There have been some slips.”

Injuries included a firefighter with a broken wrist and another with smoke inhalation, both requiring hospital visits, according to Cal Fire.

The fire was slowly spreading north Tuesday morning toward Lost Valley Road. So far, no residents have been hurt.

EVACUATION CENTERS

Evacuation centers have been set up at Zayante Fire Station in Felton and Lakeside Elementary School in Los Gatos.

Hard road closures are in effect on Bear Creek Road at highways 9 and 35.

The evacuated areas include: Bear Creek Canyon, Bear Creek Road from Highway 35 to Hawk Ridge, Dons Road, Ron’s Road, Deer Creek, Sunset Ridge, Lost Valley, Gordon Ridge, Hawk Ridge, Los Cumbres, Beatty Ridge, Griffly Rock, Miller Ridge, Reed Knoll Road and Knuth Road.

The fire is entirely in Santa Cruz County, and is not expected to reach Santa Clara County, according to Cal Fire.

RESPONSE

About 250 Cal Fire firefighters are working the area. The fire is burning in a valley, and a large plume of smoke and ash is falling in the adjacent areas.

Tuesday morning, a helicopter was flying over the scene, dumping retardant as chainsaws buzzed in the forest below the ridge at the command post.

An air tanker and an air attack plane were also working the area, but heavy smoke prevented the use of additional aircraft, said Cal Fire Division Chief Rob Sherman.

“We’d like to have more but we’ll take what we can get,” Sherman said.

Steep terrain limited the number of bulldozers Cal Fire could use to just three — not enough for this type of wildfire. The dirt roads in the area also are very narrow, Sherman said.

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“That’s why we’re heavy on the hand crews,” Sherman said, referring to firefighters with chainsaws.

Luckily, the wind has been light and not a factor in the fire, Sherman said.

“I think we’re making pretty good progress. We’ll be here today and tonight,“ Sherman said.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office is maintaining a presence in the area for security, said Sgt. Chris Clark.

A staging area is set up at the 19000 block of Bear Creek Road.

Cal Fire will provide an update at 1 p.m.

This story will be updated.