The Mercury News

Fire evacuation orders lifted

Areas affected by Freedom, Panther fires ruled safe for residents

- By Jason Green and Rick Hurd

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY >> Fire crews on Wednesday lifted evacuation orders in areas of Santa Cruz County that were whipped up by winds that created fires near long-dormant hot spots of the CZU Lightning Complex fires.

Areas affected by the Freedom and Panther fires were given the clearance to an all-safe signal in a statement from the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection just before 1:15 p.m.

The two were just some of the wind-stirred blazes that started when wind gusts blew in the 80mph range Monday and Tuesday.

The winds sparked more than 18 wildfires over an 18-hour period beginning Tuesday, the agency said. The fires burned more than 100 acres across the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The fires did not burn down any homes, and Cal Fire said there were no reported injuries.

“With the lack of rainfall in the winter months, our fuels are remaining receptive to fire year-round,” Cal Fire CZU Unit Chief Ian Larkin said in a statement. “People need to be vigilant.”

Here’s where things stood as of 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday:

• China Grade fire: The blaze was 100% contained after burning 20 acres off China Grade Road and Foxglove Lane, northwest of Boulder Creek, in Santa Cruz County.

• Empire fire: The blaze was 100% contained after burning 6 acres at Alba Road and Empire Grade in Bonny Doon.

• Panther Ridge fire: Burning at Stapp Road and Highway 9, 5 miles north of Boulder Creek, the fire had consumed nearly 28 acres and was 75% contained.

• North Butano fire: Burning off Old Woman’s Creek Road, south of Loma Mar, in San Mateo County, the fire had consumed 10 acres and was 95% contained.

• Fanning fire: The blaze was 95% contained after burning 18 acres off Fanning Grade and Harmony Hill Roads, east of Ben Lomond, in Santa Cruz County.

• Freedom fire: The blaze was 20% contained after burning 37 acres at Freedom Boulevard and Hames Road, 5 miles east of Aptos, in Santa Cruz County.

• Bloom fire: Burning at Little Basin Road and Upper Bloom Grade Road, 4 miles northwest of Boulder Creek, the fire had consumed 5 acres and was 0% contained.

 ?? RANDY VAZQUE — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? Vegetation burns as hot spots flare up near Watsonvill­e on Tuesday.
RANDY VAZQUE — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER Vegetation burns as hot spots flare up near Watsonvill­e on Tuesday.

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