Santa Clara County Fire Captain Kevin Murphy, right, and
music in the park san jose

$500,000 fire won
’t stop cherry harvest
A fire late Sunday morning that destroyed farm equipment and sheds will not be enough to stop today’s start of Ralph Santos’ cherry harvest.

Sunday’s fire, which began shortly after 11:30am, caused an estimated $500,000 in damage, mainly with the loss of seven tractors. Firefighters said the damage toll could have approached $2 million if the fire had spread to other equipment and buildings.

Cause of the fire has not been determined, although it appears to have been accidental, investigators said.

Firefighters from the California Department of Forestry/South County Fire and the Santa Clara Fire Department responded with nine engines to battle the blaze that threatened orchards and a mobile home at Santos’ El Camino Packing operation. The fire occurred at 10750 Monterey Road between Madrone and Live Oak avenues.

“There were multiple exposures to tree crops and a high number of tractors,” Mike Stonum, battalion chief for CDF, said Monday. “They stood to lose a lot. We saved a mobile home and more tractors. There was no damage to the orchard.”

The cherry harvest will begin as planned today, said Santos.

“We’ve still got to go,” Santos said Monday afternoon. “The fire is going to affect the harvest, but we are still going on.”

Santos said this year’s crop was a mixed bag because of late spring rain and hail.

“Some of our fruit is cracked, some is good and some is still green,” Santos said. “With all the inclement weather, it is not a banner year.”

While he had planned to pick fruit on Monday after the fire, the harvest had to be delayed until today.

Santos grows cherries on 320 acres in Morgan Hill and on another 70 acres south of Gilroy near U.S. 101 where he operates a fruit stand.

Stonum said the fire was out quickly, but mopping up was slowed because of some agricultural fungicide on one of the tractors. A hazardous material crew from the SCCFD responded to clean up. PG&E also came out to check an underground line, buy only as a precaution.

Santos praised firefighters.

“They did a good job,” Santos said. “They did the best they could. It was just a bad situation. For the fire they had there, it could have been a lot worse.”

The fire briefly threatened oil drums and propane tanks.

No injuries were reported.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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