Sunday: It’s time to hand the Summit fire coverage over to the professionals. If you want up-to-the-minute updates, check out the live blog at KRON4. If you’ve got time to read a bit, check out the stories at The Merc’s coverage has been thorough and thoughtful.

Big stories like this make me proud and humbled to be in the news biz: proud to be helping get the word out, and humbled by the proof that professionals chasing news kick the fannies of bloggers chasing links. While I was at home in a climate-controlled apartment, my co-workers were out there with the firefighters (the true heroes, of course), breathing ash, taking pictures, scribbling in notebooks and hoping the fire didn’t take a fatal turn.

Only one major regret has emerged over the past few days: The folks desperate to know the fate of their homes within the fire lines could not find it out here. It goes against everything a newsie believes in to have to tell somebody, “sorry, don’t know that.” It’s nothing like the pain of not knowing whether a lifetime of memories has been reduced to ash, but it does sting a little bit.

In coming years, firefighters will no doubt take GPS-enabled camera phones to the fire lines to document property losses in real time, so the folks who’ve been evacuated can get on with the business of rebuilding as soon as possible. Somebody up there knows when a house burns down — it’s just a matter of getting word back to civilization. The technology already exists; people need to amass the will to make it happen.

Something else that has made me proud: the number of people whose first question was “how can I help out?”

At 6:30 this morning, CDF reported the fire covered 3,870 acres and was 50 percent contained.


1:04 p.m.: This YouTube vid from KCRA News in Sacramento makes me think the link I posted 20 minutes ago was based on what was known Friday. As of this morning, with another couple hundred acres burnt at the edge of Uvas Canyon County Park, the fire folks are saying it could be the middle of next week before the fire’s contained.

12:38 p.m. This update from Channel 2 has cost and containment estimates I hadn’t seen before:

Almost 2,000 residents remained under evacuation orders — more than 450 of them mandatory — while almost 2,700 firefighters and a swarm of tanker planes and helicopters continued dousing the area, said Dave Shew, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Shew said the cost of battling the blaze has risen to about $1.7 million and he expects the containment effort to continue through the weekend. “It’s going to take a little time to build 9 miles of line with manual labor,” Shew said.

11:45 a.m.: Santa Clara County Health Department issues a health advisory because of smoky air. (Note, it’s a PDF file).

“People really need to pay attention to the air quality as they consider spending time outdoors this weekend, especially when it come to doing any physical activity,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Health Officer of Santa Clara County. “If you can see or smell smoke in the air, you may want to hold off on biking, running or other strenuous physical activities until the air clears.”

Individuals most at risk for illness due to smoke in the air include children, seniors and those with respiratory problems. These individuals are advised to stay inside and not go outdoors and/or exercise outside. People at risk should also avoid excess exertion and exposure to cigarette smoke and other respiratory irritants. If you develop repeated coughing, chest tightness or pain, wheezing, difficulty breathing or nausea, call your medical provider immediately.

10:45 a.m.: Forgot to post this: The Mercury News nails down where the fire started.

Fire investigators, after combing the Santa Cruz Mountains, believe they have pinpointed the spot where the treacherous Summit fire was sparked: an empty lot in the woods along Summit Road, shortly before Maymen’s Flat, at mile marker 7.53.

Planting red, blue and yellow markers, two Cal Fire investigators Friday tracked the direction of the conflagration to a clearing, closed off by a rusted chain slung between two trees. It appeared as though someone had been clearing brush there. No other information is available about the site, which is being treated as a crime scene.

Also, the KRON live chat is continuing off-site.

7:45 a.m.: Betcha didn’t know this: You can get a poison oak rash from exposure to the ashes of burnt plants.

In addition to direct contact with the plant, transmission of the allergen can occur from a number of other sources including smoke particles, contact with objects such as clothing, gloves, and tools, or contact with animals, particularly pets. When poison oak is burned, the oils can be transported on the smoke particles. Breathing this smoke can cause severe respiratory irritation.

7:30 a.m.: KRON4 has a rolling fire chat. I don’t think the station’s head Web guy has slept in three days.


1:20 p.m.: Many questions were answered (the best we could) at the Mercury News live chat. One reader passed along a link to a Google Map from CalFire that shows where the fire’s burning.

11:30 a.m.: By this time yesterday, fresh updates of the fire’s growth were coming fast and furious. Today, not much at all. Which tells us that the cool weather, calm winds and moist marine layer have (hopefully) helped firefighters contain the blaze. There’s a reason this area has had so few major fires in the last 100 years: the climate generally won’t let them spread. Yesterday morning a spark got away amid a rare combination of gusty winds following a weeklong heatwave following one of the driest springs on record. The big however: once the marine layer recedes and the afternoon breezes pick up, fresh challenges might arise. We’re not out of the woods yet. This’ll be my last update today; I’m joining the live Mercury News chat with Lisa Fernandez at noon, then it’s off to my real job.

11 a.m.: Handy link: Santa Cruz County road closures. Most caused by the Summit fire at the moment.

9:55 a.m.: KUSP Public Radio has a succinct list of fire updates and resources. Scads o’ news links, Flickr pix and Twitter tweets at this news feed.

9:40 a.m.: Mercury News Reporter Lisa Fernandez, who has been covering the fire since the first spark was reported, is doing a live a chat at noon at

9:05 a.m.: found on YouTube: A house burning in Eureka Canyon (very shaky, but scary toward the end).

8:45 a.m.: I’ve just confirmed Mount Madonna and Uvas Canyon county parks are closed — presumably at least through the weekend.

8 a.m.: The Santa Cruz Sentinel home page has a collection of key fire info, including:

  • Evacuation information: Evacuation facilities set up at Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville. Call (831) 458-7195.
  • Red Cross: Staging at Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville.
  • Volunteer:Volunteer Centers of Santa Cruz County, call (831) 427-5070
  • Animal Services: Santa Cruz Animal Services helping with large animal evacuations. Call (831) 454-7303.

7 a.m.: Best news we’ve heard in awhile, from this morning’s Mercury News:

Friday dawned with calm, overcast skies. “There isn’t a breath of wind,” said Chris Morgan, a fire protection specialist with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “And that’s a very good thing.”

We all know how cold and moist the trails down that way are in the morning, so this is pretty much the answer to people’s prayers. reported last night that a permitted burn got out of control, triggering the fire.

Today’s Merc has four inside pages of coverage. Go buy one, it’s cheap. I edited a story last night about a guy whose home, which he had built himself, burnt to the ground. “For the first time, Nathan Zazzara saw his father cry.” Heart-rending. has a forum for the fire, where I picked up two choice tidbits: Financial assistance for pet owners … and a storage company in Morgan Hill offering two months of free storage to anybody affected by the fire.

More links:

I still need to find out how the area’s parks are affected. The fire was near the western border of Uvas Canyon County Park last night and may be into Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.