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7th Firefighter Injured Battling Bear Fire; Looter Arrested

BOULDER CREEK (CBS SF) – A seventh firefighter working on the Bear Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains was injured Wednesday afternoon, according to a Cal Fire official.

The inmate firefighter suffered minor burns when he fell into a stump hole, a hole in the ground that had previously been occupied by a tree stump but had been burned out.

The firefighter is being treated for his injuries.

The Bear Fire burning in unincorporated Santa Cruz County near Boulder Creek has burned 271 acres and was 10 percent contained as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Cal Fire officials.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Clark on Wednesday announced that police arrested a man who was allegedly burglarizing a property within the evacuation zone in the 19000 block of Hidden Springs Lane.

According to Clark, the Sheriff's office received a report Tuesday afternoon of a residential burglary in the 19000 block of Hidden Springs Lane in Boulder Creek.

The residents at the home, who had been evacuated due to the Bear Fire, briefly returned to their house to find that it had been burglarized.

Later that afternoon, authorities received a tip which led officers to the suspect. He was found with $15,000 in property, mostly jewelry and a mountain bike, when he was later located in the city of Santa Cruz and arrested.

The suspect was later identified as 54-year-old Marlon Coy of Boulder Creek.  Clark said Coy's bail was set at $200,000.

Bear Fire looting suspect
Bear Fire looting suspect 54-year-old Marlon Coy of Boulder Creek (Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department

Clark said security patrols have been ongoing through evacuated areas and will continue until evacuation notices are lifted.

Clark advised anyone who notices a person who doesn't appear to belong or has no apparent lawful purpose in an evacuated area to call 911 or the sheriff's office dispatch at (831) 471-1121.

Late Wednesday morning, Clark said a drone forced aircraft fighting the Bear Fire in unincorporated Santa Cruz County to be grounded.

The drone was spotted around 11 a.m. and deputies are investigating where the drone is being operated, Clark said.

"Drone operations during a disaster are illegal," Clark said.

He said the primary concern is to put out the fire and protect people's property.

"That's being hampered by someone flying a drone right now," Clark said.

Air support resumed about an hour after the drone was initially spotted, but there was no word as to whether the person piloting the drone was found.

Wednesday afternoon, firefighters were able to save one structure on Deer Creek Road.

The fire came up the hill, close enough to melt the tarps and canvas on the outside of the yurt in question. But firefighters halted the flames, saving the artist's studio inside.

"We got a couple engines up here, we got a good stop on the fire before it got to this yurt," said Fire Chief Larry Wooldridge. "So the guys made a great save."

The blaze started as a structure fire around 10:30 p.m. Monday in the area of Bear Creek Canyon Road.

"Topography has been the major challenge on this fire," said Cal Fire spokeswoman Angela Bernheisel. "It has contributed to our injuries. These mountains are steep and rugged. Access is tough."

Six firefighters have been injured battling the blaze. Cal Fire officials told KPIX 5 Wednesday morning that the latest injury reported involved a firefighter who suffered second degree burns to the hand.

On Tuesday, a firefighter fell down a ravine and suffered a possible broken wrist and facial lacerations, Cal Fire officials said.

Other injuries include smoke inhalation, lacerations and a sprain, Bernheisel said.

Four structures have been destroyed and 150 were threatened, according to Cal Fire officials. About 600 firefighters are battling the blaze.

Among the buildings lost were a home and a yurt. Area resident Mary Sullivan-White is friends with the people who lived in the house that burned.

"They were there when the fire…came up the hill toward them, so they got out with a car and a few items," explained Sullivan-White.

Bernheisel said the major battle on the line is near the mountain community of Las Cumbres where firefighters were trying to hold a line protecting several houses.

"We are looking at some of the same threats we were looking at yesterday (Tuesday)," she said. "In terms of the risk of the fire spotting across drainage and burning up into where all the homes are in Las Cumbres."

Good progress was made on the fire overnight, with the cool temperatures, low wind and high humidity assisting in the battle.

Still, Cal Fire officials think the Bear Fire will grow to almost 500 acres before its contained.

Evacuation orders were in place Tuesday night for the communities of Las Cumbres and Deer Creek, as well as all residents of Bear Creek Road from Hawk Ridge Road to Skyline Boulevard, which is also known as state Highway 35.

Evacuated residents can seek shelter at Lakeside Elementary School at 19621 Black Road in Los Gatos or the Zayante Fire Protection District Station at 7700 E. Zayante Road in Felton.

TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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