SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (CN) — Firefighters had expected full containment of a wildfire that has burned nearly 4,500 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains by Monday, but Cal Fire said it will likely be Friday before the blaze is surrounded.
The Loma Fire is now 81 percent contained and more evacuation orders have been lifted, allowing more people to return home. Twelve homes and 16 other buildings have been destroyed in the fire, which started as a house fire on Sept. 26.
Firefighters have had a difficult time fighting the wildfire, which is burning in steep and dry terrain. But Cal Fire spokesman Brandon Vaccaro said it is mostly in hand now.
"We are reducing our force as we near total containment," Vaccaro said, adding that the cause is still under investigation. The fire still threatens 81 homes, but that is down from hundreds last week.
The community has seen several major fires in the past 15 years. In 2002, the Croy Fire burned more than 3,000 acres and destroyed 31 homes and 15 other buildings. In 2008, the Summit Fire burned 34 homes, mostly in Santa Cruz County in the hills just above Corralitos. And in 2009, the first Loma Fire scorched 485 acres and destroyed three buildings.
Vaccaro said firefighters are now working on things like erosion-control measures to prevent flooding in the rainy season, continuing to strengthen lines and looking for hot spots. Currently, there are just over 1,300 firefighters fighting the blaze.
Some mandatory evacuation orders remain in place on the Santa Clara County side of the fire, but all evacuation orders and warnings were lifted in Santa Cruz County last week.
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