Heat and heavy smoke continued to plague the army of firefighters battling a sprawling
blaze in and around Henry W. Coe State Park, as state fire officials
backed away Thursday from an earlier statement pinpointing the fire's
As of 7 p.m. Thursday, the fire had blackened 27,000 acres and was 35 percent contained.
Efforts to control the damage were hampered by heavy smoke that forced
officials to temporarily ground their air assault on the flames in
remote canyons of Santa Clara County's backcountry.
Fire officials rescinded their statement from the day before that the
fire started at a private hunting camp at Booze Lake, just north of the
Eric Wood, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry
and Fire Protection, said Thursday that he traced the fire's path
backward to its point of origin "on the northwest side of Henry Coe,"
adding, "I don't think it's near Booze Lake."
The owners of that lake, part of the Laurel Springs Gun Club, said
Thursday that they wanted to be sure the record was straightened out,
aware that liability for the cost of fighting the fire already has
stretched to $3.3 million.
"I want to make sure everyone knows that Booze Lake was not the origin
of that fire," said Bill Silveira, a San Jose construction company
executive who is one of the property's owners and who was just leaving
his cabin when the fire broke out Monday afternoon.
Silveira said he saw the first plume of smoke rising more than a mile
northwest of his property. He met firefighters at the headquarters of
the park and helped guide them through the remote mountain roads to the
"We headed out to get them to Blue Ridge above our ranch
and then down into Booze Lake where they were going to try to make a
stand, but the fire overtook us down there and just blew through Booze
Lake," Silveira said. "I've never seen anything like it."
Wood, the fire investigator, said that while he pinpointed the location
where a "burn barrel" used to dispose of garbage started the blaze, he
hadn't determined ownership of the property or identified the person
responsible for lighting it.
John Leonti, another nearby property owner who visited his 40-acre camp
Tuesday, said he could see from the burn pattern that the fire started
just north of his property line.
The sprawling 87,000-acre park extends across two counties and its
boundary meanders across steep ridge lines and through undeveloped
canyons that aren't reached by roads.
Officials, meanwhile, said they are hoping for cooler winds from the
west to help them in their battle today. But the winds shifted at times
Wednesday night and Thursday, causing the blaze to jump some of the
lines fire crews had cleared.
"It went where we didn't want it to go," Cal Fire spokesman Jim Pope said Thursday morning.
After grounding air tankers and helicopters in the morning, officials
decided it was safe to let them fly in the afternoon, when some of the
smoke had cleared. Officials said 1,851 firefighters were involved in
With several other wildfires burning throughout the state, including a
larger blaze in Plumas County, Pope said that it took a few days to get
all the personnel that officials had requested to work the Lick fire.
"They have to prioritize where they send resources," Pope said. "We
might not have gotten everything we had asked for. But right now, we
are at the place we wanted to be with staffing."
Mercury News Staff Writer Mark Gomez contributed to this report.