Mandatory evacuations were ordered Tuesday for Santa Cruz Mountains residents living near the Loma Fire, which by the evening had charred at least 2,250 acres and was 10 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.
The fire continued to churn through dry fuel in the mountainous terrain Tuesday, erupting at times as flames hit patches of thick vegetation. Evacuees were in a little more of a hurry Tuesday.
"It's burning pretty hot and pretty fast, and they're hitting it pretty hard with all the bombers here," one resident named Stephen said.
The new evacuations include all of Croy Road, which includes the Swedish community of Sveadal near Uvas Canyon County Park and Little Uvas Road. Cal Fire officials worried the fire was headed that way. Mandatory evacuation orders were previously ordered on Monday for the Loma Prieta ridgeline area including all tributary roads along Summit Road from Soquel San Jose Road to Ormsby Fire Station. This includes Uvas Canyon County Park, Loma Chiquita, Casa Loma, Loma Prieta Way, Highland Road and Mount Bache Road.
The Red Cross has set up three evacuation centers for those who needed food and shelter: the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 East Lake Ave., Watsonville; the Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley, 14855 Oka Road, Los Gatos; the Morgan Hill Presbyterian Church, 16970 DeWitt Ave, Morgan Hill. Soquel High School is no longer being used as an evacuation center.
Cal Fire officials said Tuesday that one home and six outbuildings had been destroyed, and 300 more structures remained threatened in the rugged terrain with little or no access roads.
Crews were making some headway on the west side of the flames, with bulldozers building fire walls, but the east side was still a concern, fire officials said.
This kind of "extreme" fire behavior is the "new norm," according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mike Mathiesen. "It's fall, we're coming off a four-day heat wave."
Loma Fire Information Officer Bill Murphy agreed.
"What's unique about what we're seeing, and we've seen this the last couple of years, is this fire is spreading very fast, very aggressively in almost the complete absence of wind," he said.
Murphy said later Tuesday that the fire is down at the bottom of the drainage and moving up toward the road. So now there are firefighters along the road to hold the fire there.
For some residents, the fire's steady and rapid spread meant no more waiting.
"I was here through the night, and the fire was getting real close to the house right now over here to the south," resident Eric Bischoff said. "So we bailed out early this morning after we got everything put away."
The blaze is in the area of Loma Prieta and Loma Chiquita roads in Santa Clara County, west of Morgan Hill, and is spreading in the southeast direction toward open space, Cal Fire said.
Fire officials do not know the cause of the fire. They expect the blaze to burn for a few days. It started on Monday about 3 p.m. By Tuesday afternoon, 500 firefighters were battling the blaze.