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California fire crews battling blaze in Santa Cruz Mountains inside burn scar

by Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle |

Firefighters were battling a wildfire Monday morning after it ignited in Central California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, sending clouds of smoke rising from near China Grade Road in the footprint of last year’s devastating CZU Lightning Complex fires.

The blaze, named the Grade Fire, by late morning Monday had consumed about 5 acres and was spreading slowly, according Cal Fire spokeswoman Cecile Juliette. Smoke was reported in the area at about 9:30 a.m., and two crews and a water tender had been sent to the area. The fire was located near China Grade Road and Butano Truck Road, northwest of Boulder Creek, Juliette said.

She said the fire was spreading through ground litter — vegetation and branches on the forest floor — and was not in the trees.

“This could actually be beneficial, as long as it’s not near buildings,” she said. “It helps get rid of some of the vegation that’s still on the ground, meaning there would be less to burn later this year.”

The cause of the fire was not yet known, but it could be one of the ongoing flare-ups connected to last fall’s CZU fires. Those lightning-sparked blazes burned for more than a month last August and September, killing one person, destroying 7,000 homes and consuming 87,000 acres.