Santa Cruz Bear Fire ‘Calming Down,’ Now 50 Percent Contained

What to Know

  • At least 391 acres burned; 50 percent contained
  • Four unknown structures destroyed
  • Seven firefighters injured

The 391-acre Bear Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains is "calming down" and is now 50 percent contained, a Cal Fire division chief said Saturday morning.

"We're somewhat scaling down now that the fire is calming down," said Cal Fire Division Chief Angela Bernheisel. "We want to put this thing to bed."

Fire crews are continuing to establish and reinforce containment lines around the fire. There are now 34 engines, three water tenders, one helicopter, 13 hand crews, two dozers and 75 other resources fighting the blaze, down from earlier in the week.

The fire has burned 391 acres, according to Cal Fire. Bernheisel said Santa Ana winds are expected in Southern California, "so we need to be able to put this thing totally to bed so we can be available for the next potential start that might happen."

Evacuation orders are still in effect for Bear Creek Canyon Road, Deer Creek Road, Rons Road, Dons Road, and their tributary streets in the fire area. Bear Creek Road between Hawk Ridge Road and Highway 35 is open to residents only, Cal Fire said.

The fire started Monday night at 10:37 p.m. and has destroyed four structures.

Evacuation orders for the Las Cumbres community, Skyline Boulevard community and areas south of Bear Creek Road were lifted Thursday morning, according to officials. 

Yelena Malysheva was one of the lucky evacuees who was able to return home Thursday after anxiously waiting to see if her home would be spared by the flames.

"I haven't slept pretty much in the four days," she said. "I'm totally exhausted. My kids are at school. They're very tired, too."

Though fire officials were generally upbeat about their progress in containing the blaze, there were some setbacks Wednesday. A drone grounded the much-needed air attack for about an hour.

Before the temporary stoppage, Cal Fire officials said the air support was critical in the steep terrain.

"The bucket drops are helping; they're a ton of help," said Steve Chapman, a Strike Force member. "And we're trying to get hose lines up here."

As of Thursday evening, 905 fire personnel, 72 engines, nine helicopters and three dozers were still battling the blaze, according to Cal Fire. 

Five firefighters, including an inmate firefighter, all suffered minor injuries  while working the fire lines on Tuesday, according to Cal Fire. Two more firefighters on Wednesday were transported to hospitals, one after suffering second-degree burns to his hands and the other also suffering from unspecified burn injuries, fire officials said. 

One of those hurt was Andy Goodson from the Santa Clara unit. He fell 50 feet while on the front lines of the fire. As of Friday, he is hospitalized but expected to be OK, according to Cal Fire. 

A Cal Fire official noted that the steep and rugged terrain has played a role in the injuries.

Officials are still trying to determine what exactly caused the blaze to ignite. Towering flames could be seen ripping through dense vegetation and devouring trees right after the fire started before they were eventually suppressed by fire crews on the ground and in the air.

The Zayante Fire Station, which is located at 7700 E. Zayante St. in Felton, has been designated as an evacuation center for those impacted by the fire. Another evacuation center has opened at Lakeside Elementary School — 19620 Black Road — in Los Gatos.

Those with horses and goats can seek shelter at the Graham Hill Showgrounds located at 1145 Graham Hill Rd. in Santa Cruz. Folks with smaller animals can go to Santa Cruz County Animal Services, which is located at 2200 7th Ave. in Santa Cruz.

One person has been arrested on suspicion of looting one of the homes that was in the evacuation area, according to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department.

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