Bay Area fire burns through Santa Cruz Mountains

by Lauren Sanders

Center Editor

Update 9/30

A Los Gatos family suffered a devastating loss as a result of the fire. Fire officials mandated that the Branzuela family, two of whom are students at LGHS, evacuate their home on Sept. 26 to avoid the blaze. When father Isaiah Branzuela saw the plume of smoke rising on the mountain, he rushed home through Highway 17 traffic only to be stopped by toxic smoke, flames six-stories tall, and officials forbidding him from reaching his home.

Not only was Branzuela’s home consumed by the fire, but his cherished dog, Thailin, was unable to escape the flames. Thailin and Branzuela had a special bond; the pair was inseparable, traveling everywhere together in Branzuela’s truck.

On top of everything, Branzuela has been diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma and is a recipient of chemotherapy multiple times each week. His cancer is in an advanced stage, and he works hard to care for his wife and three children on top of his treatments.

A friend of Branzuela’s created a GoFundMe page to assist the family during this time of hardship. Donations can be made here: https://www.gofundme.com/2rkxbwk

Update 9/28

The Santa Cruz Mountains are currently subject to a raging wildfire, spreading hundreds of acres each day. The fire began around 2:50 pm on Mon., Sept. 26, 2016 near Loma Prieta and Loma Chiquita Roads about ten miles from Morgan Hill. The fire spread 400 acres in three hours, reaching 1,000 acres by 9:30 pm.

The blaze continued to grow on Tuesday, destroying 2,250 acres by Tuesday evening. Officials reported that the fire was only ten percent contained at that point, and had deployed various volunteer and professional units.

With over 300 structures threatened and six destroyed, deputies have assisted the evacuations of residents on Loma Prieta, Casa Loma, Summit, Uvas and Loma Chiquita Roads and expect to vacate more homes as the fire continues to spread. Many residents have fled to Santa Cruz, as well as the evacuation centers at Soquel High School and the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds.

Over 1,000 firefighters from around the Bay Area and throughout the state have been sent to help extinguish the blaze, utilizing all available resources, such as helicopters and air tankers. 111 fire engines and 23 helicopters are on the scene, and more are on the way from several fire stations in the area. The crews are working 24-hour shifts on steep terrain and are experiencing fatigue as a result of this week’s unusually high temperatures.

The fire is still less than fifty percent controlled, but deputies expect that it will be fully contained by Oct. 3.

(Sources: Cal Fire, CBS Local, Mercury News)

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