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5 Firefighters Injured In Santa Cruz Mountains Wildfire; Homes Evacuated

BOULDER CREEK (CBS SF) -- Five firefighters were injured early Tuesday as a growing vegetation fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Boulder Creek burned through at least 270 acres and forced residents to evacuate their homes.

Cal Fire said one firefighter was injured as he tumbled 50 feet down a steep ravine and suffered a wrist injury. A second firefighter -- a prison inmate helping fight the blaze -- was treated for smoke inhalation.

Assistant Cal Fire Chief Rob Sherman said three other firefighters were being evaluated for injuries after slipping and falling on the steep terrain.

"We have access issues (to fight the fire)," Sherman said. "Its very steep, rugged terrain."

Cal Fire officials said the blaze on Bear Creek Canyon Road in unincorporated Santa Cruz County started as a house fire at around 10:30 p.m. Monday that spread to nearby vegetation.

The blaze, dubbed the Bear Fire, had destroyed four structures, grown to 271 acres and was 5 percent contained by 8:30 p.m.

The Bear Fire has also triggered evacuations for residents on Deer Creek Road, Rons Road, Dons Road, Lost Valley Road, Favre Ridge Road and Oak Ridge Road. The mountain communities of Deer Creek and Los Combres were evacuated.

With the Wine Country fires fresh on their minds, Cal Fire did not hesitate to evacuate 150 families nearby.

Sherman said weather was not an issue early Tuesday -- winds were light.

Resident Patty Ciesla was evacuating to Los Gatos, as she worried about her friends and neighbors.

"But you know, those flames are lofting embers into the sky, and who knows where those things would land. Just because it's not moving in this direction doesn't mean a spot fire can't happen right here," Ciesla told KPIX 5.

According to California Highway Patrol officials, an evacuation center is open at Boulder Creek Elementary School at 400 W. Lomond St. in Boulder Creek. Classes are not being held at the school Tuesday.

Authorities said several roads have been closed by the fire -- Beatty Ridge Road, Favre Ridge Road, Bear Creek Road, Old Vineyard Road, Deer Creek Road, Skyline Ridge Road, Rambling Road, Hartman's Creek Road, Sunset Ridge Road, Shear Creek Road, Grizzly Rock Road, Miller Ridge Road, most of Las Cumbres Road, and Knuth Road on the Santa Clara side.

Cal Fire said about 30 different crews have responded to the fire including agencies from Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Clara counties.

The Santa Cruz Mountain residents KPIX 5 met have been here before. Brian Garrahan's vehicles are loaded up and ready to go.

When asked what his escape plan was, Garrahan said with a laugh, "Drive down the road! No, I got everything packed up. I got trailers, I got friends, so I think we'll be fine."

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