.Evacuation Orders Lifted for Freedom Fire North of Watsonville

UPDATE (1:40pm, Jan. 20)

Evacuation orders for the Freedom Fire have been lifted, the Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit announced Wednesday afternoon.

Cal Fire CZU also announced that most, if not all, fires in Santa Cruz County are expected to be contained by this evening.

More than 100 acres burned across the Santa Cruz Mountains. No homes were destroyed, and there have been no injuries reported.

For people affected by power outages, PG&E will have a community resource center from 5-9:30pm Wednesday at the Enterprise Technology Center in Scotts Valley.

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Story posted Jan. 19, 2021:

Heavy winds pummeled the Central Coast Monday night and into Tuesday, causing downed power lines, numerous power outages, and several fires, including one just north of Watsonville.

Dubbed the Freedom Fire by Cal Fire’s San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit, the 40-acre blaze has forced people in about 100 homes to evacuate from various roads in the Aptos-Larkin Valley area. That includes Nunes, Gillette and Halton roads and Bens Way off White Road, along with nearby Willow Heights off Freedom Boulevard.

Cal Fire announced Tuesday around 3:19pm that the fire, first called the Nunes Fire, was 20% contained. No structures have been reported damaged.

The Red Cross and Santa Cruz County have established a temporary evacuation center for residents displaced by ongoing fires, including the Panther Ridge Fire, which is burning in Boulder Creek. That fire had charred around 10 aces as of Tuesday afternoon and was 55% contained.

Located at Corralitos Community Church, at 26 Browns Valley Road in Corralitos, a temporary evacuation center will provide residents with refreshments, resources and links to services including longer-term shelter, if necessary.

As of 10am Tuesday there were more than a dozen fires sprinkled around Santa Cruz County and around 10 reports of power lines down. Numerous roads have been closed due to downed power lines and fallen trees. Several trees crashed into homes around the county.

By 8am Tuesday, Central Fire called for all available fire personnel to report to duty due to the overload of calls.

In Corralitos off of Day Valley Road, a utility pole transformer exploded, alarming residents in the area.

A tree fell over Vega Road near San Miguel Canyon Road, forcing fire crews to close Vega Road around 7:30am.

At least three fires opened up in the burn zone of the CZU Lightning Complex fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Check the Cal Fire CZU Twitter feed for the latest updates: twitter.com/CALFIRECZU.

Reporter/photographer Tarmo Hannula contributed to this story.


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Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.
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