SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) – With the fire bearing down on homes in Bonny Doon, a group of friends and neighbors took it upon themselves to create their own fire break.
One person behind the effort estimates their actions saved 25 homes.
Some are calling them the Bald Mountain Brigade – A group of around 25 people who used a tractor and hard work to turn what was once just a mountain bike trail in an unincorporated part of Wilder Ranch State Park into a fire break.
“Initially was hand tools and a garden hose at our neighbors on the top of the hill over there where the fire first came, from there it escalated to OK we saved his house the first time, then the fire was moving his way over to us, the bulk of the homes are kind of back behind. And so from there, it was, get out the tractor, get out the chainsaw and start working on this fire line,” Justin Robinson said.
They estimate that the fire line they cut is a half mile from end to end and the fire came right up to it with the charred trees and ash where the underbrush used to be.
On the other side, the foliage is still green untouched by flames.
But the fire did get very close to homes — One had to be saved three times and eventually lost two outbuildings.
All 25 homes in this area off Smith Grade Road are still standing.
“We don’t know what the fire would’ve done but we stopped it from getting to them yes,” Robinson said.
There are still hot spots that they are keeping an eye on and while Robinson says he knows what they did isn’t encouraged by Cal Fire, they didn’t feel like they could walk away.
“They had fires all over the state, they didn’t have the resources to protect a tiny community like this. Initially, they weren’t here to protect the homes and we were. I know they don’t condone it, we have a lot of vested interest here and we care about our community greatly. It felt like a safe thing to do even though maybe it wasn’t at the time,” Robinson said.