Watsonville, California – According to Cal Fire, a wildland fire in Watsonville that caused evacuations after being sparked by a prescribed burn Friday afternoon was 10% contained by Saturday morning.
A Cal Fire spokesperson said Saturday that firefighters made “great progress” fighting the Estrada Fire in south Santa Cruz County overnight. The fire’s extent was eventually updated to 83 acres by officials.
“The fire did not grow last night,” said Angela Bernheisel. “We expect a lot more containment today and we hope to be able to lift the evacuation orders tonight. Conditions calmed down significantly overnight.”
A Cal Fire prescribed burn in the area Friday afternoon jumped its containment lines near Corralitos Friday. In response, firefighting crews from Cal Fire and Santa Cruz County local fire departments attacked the blaze and surrounded the it with retardant Friday night.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation orders and warnings and an evacuation center opened at Corralitos Community Church. That evacuation center closed at 10 p.m. because of light usage, according to Santa Cruz County officials.
The evacuation orders were downgraded to warnings around noon on Saturday.
A 20-acre prescribed burn at Estrada Ranch was scheduled for 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Friday. It was intended to reduce dry fuel and prevent a wildland fire. Cal Fire warned residents on social media to expect to see smoke from the controlled burn.
It’s not yet known what happened to cause the flames to jump the line around 2:40 p.m.
Noe Torres, a Watsonville resident, said that, when he saw wildlife trying to escape the fire, he knew he had to prepare for the worst.
“I saw a bunch of wild turkeys coming down, that was scary,” Torres said.
Torres said he then turned on his sprinklers to protect his property.
Kim Miles said she’s preparing just in case the wind shifts.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Grab some personal things that can’t be replaced, pictures and whatnot, have my car ready if we need to go.”
When asked if she would be able to sleep tonight, she responded, “Very lightly.”
At least 30 engines responded to the blaze Friday afternoon as it flashed across hilly terrain covered in oak and grass.
At least seven Cal Fire air tankers attacked the fire but were grounded after nightfall.