September 26th in Santa Cruz was unseasonably hot. Fire weather.
At about 2:45 pm, one of our ham radio enthusiasts emailed us: “Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains… Just a quarter acre, someone’s trailer caught fire,” he told us.
In an hour the fire had spread to 200 acres. Local TV news streamed a live feed, which we tweeted: a helicopter circling Loma Prieta mountain, watching the fire race uphill.
Small planes from Cal Fire dumped loads of flame retardant on a mountain covered with dry, brittle trees and brush. At first, Cruzio staff watched like anyone else would watch, worrying about the people, pets and animals who might be affected. But it got more personal as the hours passed.
A telecommunications facility, used by many companies including Cruzio, sits on top of Loma Prieta. We serve some fiber-to-wireless customers from that site, and it’s an important backup to our fiber connections, protecting our network from outages. We’ve spent years acquiring and deploying expensive equipment there.
Starting at about 2:45 pm, we watched live TV footage of the fire approaching the bunker-like buildings and steel tower housing our equipment.
Cruzio has security cameras up there — we mostly use them to monitor weather, so we can make sure snow and ice don’t interfere with equipment in winter. The cameras can be swiveled, zoomed and aimed remotely, so we can see all around. Often, one of our technicians will spot mountain lions or eagles close to the buildings and they’ll email out screen shots. We love the cameras.
By 3:30 pm, our security cameras were picking up nearby flames.
At Cruzio headquarters, we anxiously watched the live video. We hoped the fire would miss our facility. Winds were blowing away from the buildings — we could see embers blowing away from the camera. But the situation changed by the minute.
As we swiveled the camera, we saw fire in dozens of spots burning just down the hill.
If fire had engulfed the mountaintop facility, and burned the bunkers down, our equipment would have been destroyed. But the site is prepared for fire, with a wide dirt clearance, paved perimeter road and concrete buildings. And once we saw the fire moving south, we were relieved that the fire wouldn’t destroy our equipment. Now we worried about electricity. Continue Reading: Night One