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Calif. mountain communities evacuated as wildfire grows

Associated Press

Morgan Hill, Calif. — More California residents were ordered from their homes Tuesday as a growing wildfire threatened remote communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The blaze in a rugged area about 30 miles south of San Jose destroyed one home and charred more than 1.5 square miles of dry brush and timber, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Hundreds of homes were evacuated after the fire broke out Monday amid a heat wave, and more residents were ordered to leave as the flames spread overnight. Officials didn’t say how many homes are affected.

The Mercury News in San Jose reports that Danielle Mays anxiously waited Monday for a neighbor to get to the staging area with her Boston terrier Layla and her cat Callie.

“That’s it; that’s what matters,” Mays said. “I have fire insurance for the rest.”

Resident Jennifer Swifteagle was driving to the staging area when she heard the booming evacuation orders.

“They were saying, ‘Evacuate the area, evacuate your homes.’ They didn’t have to say why. Everyone could see and smell it,” Swifteagle said.

Renee and Alan Merrick got out of their home with nine pairs of breeding parrots.

“Eight years ago our house burned down in an electrical fire,” Renee Merrick said. “We lost 13 parrots. I couldn’t believe that we’re reliving it again.”

The fire was just 5 percent contained.

Crews braced for another day of witheringly low humidity and temperatures in the upper 90s. The blaze sparked on the southern edge of Santa Clara County also threatened television and radio towers.

Meanwhile to the north in Sonoma County, crews gained control over a 2-square-mile fire that briefly threatened homes and The Geysers geothermal complex, a massive power producing facility.

Evacuation and road closure orders were lifted Monday evening after firefighters increased containment to 45 percent, Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said.

“It’s looking very good, but we still need to make sure smoke and small fires inside the perimeter are taken care of,” he said.

A statewide heat wave that baked even coastal cities that normally benefit from the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean was expected to start easing Tuesday.

The mercury shot up into triple digits in downtown Los Angeles and points north and south as high pressure gripped the drought-stricken state. Most other areas were in the 90s or at least the 80s.