.Anzar Fire Eclipses 100 Acres in Aromas

The blaze was 50% contained as of Friday evening

A large wildland fire in Aromas that sparked on Thursday afternoon has charred more than 100 acres and is 50% contained, Cal Fire announced Friday afternoon.

Around 3:21pm Thursday, two fires broke out behind the AR Wilson Quarry, better known as the Graniterock Quarry, in Aromas. Cal Fire, Aromas Tri-county Fire and other agencies attacked the Anzar Fire from the ground and sky Thursday evening and into Friday evening.

Pumped by winds and dry summer conditions, the blaze, which ate through rugged forests and brush, grew quickly, producing a huge column of brown, yellow and white smoke that dominated the sky east of Aromas and spurred evacuation orders for residents of Forest Lane, Harlands Way and School and Anzar roads.

Paul King, who lives on School Road, did not heed the evacuation orders. Instead, he says he jumped on his tractor and helped save three of his neighbor’s homes. 

“I saw it and smelled it start right over there,” King said as he worked on his truck Friday outside his home. “It built up real quick. It was harrowing. It was raining fire around here; embers falling here and there. That’s when the hillside right behind my house started burning. There were air tankers and helicopters buzzing right overhead.”

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According to Cal Fire, firefighters contained one fire’s progress to the north, but the second fire quickly spread through eucalyptus groves to the south. The fire jumped across Highway 129, but progress was stopped by helicopter water drops.

A helicopter attacks the Anzar Fire Friday from the air above Anzar Road. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Cal Fire propellor and jet air tankers took turns with helicopters, dumping water and fire retardant onto the flames that, at times, veered towards several ridgetop homes. 

King said one home on School Road was engulfed in flames.

Watsonville native Rick Havens, who lives on Anzar Road and was once a firefighter, said he watched the cloud of smoke develop into the afternoon.

“I wasn’t worried though because there’s a good fire break up by the Graniterock conveyor belt,” he said. “It was something to watch, those helicopters coming in and scooping up water from that pond right there. They really got a jump on it quickly; I’m really pleased with how fast they got in here and, with those airdrops, knocked this thing down.”

Along with the evacuation orders, Cal Fire had also issued an evacuation warning for properties on Highway 129 between Highway 101 and Rogge Lane. 

As of 5pm Friday, most evacuations orders had been switched to warnings, except for Forest Lane, which is still under a “hard closure,” Cal Fire spokesperson Cecile Juliette said.

Anzar High School has been established as an evacuation center.

It was initially reported that downed power lines triggered the quarry blaze, but the cause is still under investigation.

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Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.
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