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May 22, 2022

Croy Fire: lessons learned

The searing temperatures early this week reminded anyone
involved in last year
’s raging Croy Wildfire that destroyed 34 homes and scorched
more than 33,000 acres in the South Valley that it could happen
again – easily. We must be, as much as possible, on guard. Out of
that raging inferno, which fortunately did not claim any lives,
lessons were learned.
The searing temperatures early this week reminded anyone involved in last year’s raging Croy Wildfire that destroyed 34 homes and scorched more than 33,000 acres in the South Valley that it could happen again – easily. We must be, as much as possible, on guard. Out of that raging inferno, which fortunately did not claim any lives, lessons were learned.

The people who choose to live in the rural areas – what firefighters call the “urban interface” – are clearly aware and more diligent about rule one: Clear the area around your home of debris and any possible fire fuel.

Beyond that, residents have taken the fire truck by the hose, so to speak, and formed the Uvas Volunteer Fire Department. That unveiling this week, appropriately, came near the one-year anniversary of the fire that brought 2,102 firefighters to South Valley’s canyons and hillsides west of Morgan Hill.

Residents Nik Gluck and Kenn Weeks are the driving forces behind the volunteer department, but all 25 residents who’ve volunteered to become brigade members are to be commended. Gluck said that the idea for a volunteer force had been discussed informally for a long time before the fire galvanized people into action. That action has resulted in the purchase of two fire engines which will be used as first-response vehicles in the hopes that a little firepower initially can prevent a small blaze from turning into an inferno.

In recognizing the fire’s anniversary date – Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2002 – we should again acknowledge the deeds of firefighters who battled fiercely under grueling conditions and saved 65 threatened homes. They were heroic.

After the fire, the Santa Clara Valley Water District pitched in with some temporary grass plantings designed to halt soil erosion. That and Mother Nature appear to be doing well in regenerating growth in the area.

The same cannot be said for those who lost their homes in the fire. There has been virtually no movement in a year’s time between residents and the county with regards to building permits. It is time for that regeneration to start and time for the county to compromise – particularly on the unreasonable demands for road improvements ostensibly required for fire vehicles.

The county must understand that the Croy Road area is not Los Altos Hills. People don’t have $1 million to plunk down for road improvements. And, unless the county’s going to purchase the property, they should come up with common sense guidelines that can result in building permits for displaced residents.

Supervisor Don Gage, who has handled many a difficult negotiation process masterfully, should play a key role in bridging the gap between residents and permits. Croy residents have taken steps in the right direction to help themselves. Now, the county has to step in and do its part.

If the standoff continues, some will do exactly what one frustrated resident has done already – build without a permit. That puts the county and area residents at a much greater risk than a compromise that cements a partnership between residents and government.

On the two-year anniversary of the Croy Fire, let’s hope former Croy area residents like Kersty Daniels and her husband, Russell Cox, who are currently living in Sunnyvale, can be rebuilding the hillside home they loved – with the county’s blessing.

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