At least 15 homes damaged in Morgan Hill fire

The Associated Press
Thursday September 26, 2002

MORGAN HILL — Flames burned toward dozens of homes nestled in remote neighborhoods of the lushly forested Santa Cruz Mountains on Wednesday, with firefighters struggling in 90-degree heat to control one of the area’s largest wildfires in decades. 

The 2,529-acre blaze sent towering walls of flame through tinder-dry brush and trees. At least 11 homes were confirmed destroyed and four were damaged according to Steve Gasaway, a California Department of Forestry spokesman. 

CDF surveyed 30 percent of the area damaged by the 3-day-old fire. About 35 homes were checked by Wednesday evening, he said. There was no estimate on how many outbuildings had been affected. Six minor injuries were reported. 

Dozens of firefighters and helicopters worked to halt the advance of flames late Wednesday afternoon along the Santa Clara-Santa Cruz County line, midway between Corralitos and Morgan Hill. The intense flames shot 30 feet into the air and ashes snowed down on Summit Road, along the county border. 

Crews worked to build a fire line to keep the flames from jumping to the Santa Cruz County side of the road. 

Santa Clara County officials on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, which allowed them to bring in additional resources from outside and get disaster relief for residents, according to Pete Kutras, assistant county executive. 

“We know some homes have been lost and as the fire is moving, a great number of additional homes are being threatened,” Kutras said. 

The fire line was within a half mile of Kim Son Meditation Center, a Buddhist temple on Mt. Madonna, close to Loma Prieta peak. 

On Monday, more than 150 people were at the center for a retreat, but by Wednesday, just a handful remained. They hoped to stay, but were staying in touch with authorities. 

“If it becomes dangerous, then we’ll have to leave,” a nervous Thich Quang Chieu said. 

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials believe the fire was sparked Monday by a fire within a mobile home along the eastern side of the mountains.