The Loma Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains grew slowly overnight, scorching 4,345 acres by Friday evening, 200 acres more than the day before, Cal Fire said.
Cal Fire crews have contained 50 percent of the blaze, which they hope to fully contain by Monday — a week after the wildfire started at the southern edge of Santa Clara County off Loma Prieta and Loma Chiquita roads, 20 miles northwest of Morgan Hill.
So far, eight homes and nine outbuildings have been destroyed. One firefighter was also injured on Thursday. Angst has been building among displaced residents who say because they can't get back to their homes, they're not sure if they're still standing or not.
"We're smack right in the middle of the fire, and we don't even know if our stuff is destroyed," evacuee Daniel Garcia said at community meeting in Los Gatos Thursday night.
Despite firefighters' hopes to contain the fire in a few days, Cal Fire Batallion Chief Jonathan Cox said there are challenges ahead.
"The big concern right now is we have this weather pattern that is changing right now, and this is a dry low pressure system that is coming in across the region," he said. "We are looking at 30 mph winds at the ridge top in the Uvas creek drainage areas ... So we need to continue to be aggressive out there to get some good containment."
Firefighters are searching for hotspots and bracing for surging winds that they are afraid that could rejuvinate the flames. Helicopters are using ponds in the mountains to reload for water drops.
According to Brandon Vaccaro with Cal Fire, there is "an extreme amount of danger with this wind as it comes in" because it could result in "more embers flying, potentially crossing the fire line."
Tours of Loma Chiquita Road showed ravaged earth and destruction.
Storage units and a winery were scorched, power lines were down, and marijuana grows were covered with fire retardant. Elsewhere, trailers and vintage cars had been burned to a rubble, and houses spared by the flames were scattered throughout the battered terrain.
One homeowner, a volunteer firefighter, said he lost his vineyard but his home was saved. But the same can't be said for many of his neighbors.
"It was an inferno," said David Ward, who owns a home on Loma Chiquita Road. "It looked like bombs were going off and so the only thing you’re thinking is … ‘Are we going to make it out of here?’”
Mandatory evacuations in Santa Clara County remained in effect. And even those who were not required to leave their homes in the San Jose's Almaden Valley feel they're in an at-risk zone — from all the smoke and ash.
Meanwhile, road closures also remained in the area. Non-residents are urged to avoid Ormsby Cutoff, Haven Hill Lane, Pacific Rim, Loma Prieta Way, and Rancho Prieta, Mt. Bachi and Summit roads.
This is the fourth significant wildfire to rock the area in 14 years: The Croy Fire erupted in 2002, the Summit Fire broke out in 2008, and another Loma Fire burned in 2009.
The origin and cause of the Loma Fire remain under investigation. An evacuation center can be found at Morgan Hill Presbyterian Church at 16970 De Witt Avenue.