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Firefighter Ryan Wake and other firefighters with California Fire... (Patrick Tehan / Mercury News)
The blaze raging in a remote area east of Morgan Hill could double in size today and devour 30,000 acres before it's squelched, officials said.

If the blaze sparked Monday in Henry Coe State Park grows as Cal Fire spokesman Frank Kemper predicted, it could today consume at least 10,000 acres of rugged, forested terrain. By 2 p.m., the blaze had churned through 7,000 acres.

If the fire does grow to 30,000 acres, about the size of San Francisco, it would be one of the largest fires in Santa Clara County history. But it likely won't destroy any homes, Kemper said, because the wind is fanning it the southeast. To the north, homes abut the park's entrance. One structure, described as an outbuilding, has been destroyed so far.

Officials have no estimate for when they'll have the blaze contained.

Dry vegetation at the park and winds make for a quickly spreading fire, Kemper said.

"Fire behavior is a big problem," he said. But the largest obstacle firefighters face is the steep and rugged terrain.

Trucks must traverse dirt roads and there isn't much room near the blaze to set up equipment, Cal Fire spokesman Kevin Colburn said.

"There is one way in and one way out," he said.

Fire crews from around the state are trying to box in the fire north of Bear Mountain, south of Isabelle Valley, east of Hobbs Road and west of the county line.

They've set up a headquarters at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy. A tent city has sprung up at the


headquarters. Fire crews working in 24-hour shifts ate breakfast in rotations early this morning.

The center is complete with outdoor toilets, independent water supplies, generators and dozens of Cal Fire trucks. Workers unloaded palets full of Gatorade and bottled water from Costco trucks at the camp.

Right now there are approximately 720 firefighters and prison-crew members on site. By Wednesday, Kemper expects to have 1,200 firefighters on hand. Crews from Seaside, Gilroy, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties and the Spring Valley Volunteer Fire Department responded to calls for help fighting the blaze, which continues to threaten about 50 private cabins in the area.

Campers, hikers and hunters in the fire area have been accounted for, according to Colburn. With deer season under way, he said, many hunters had to tracked down.

From Highway 101 a black plume of smoke hangs over the eastern hills in an otherwise cloudless sky. To the southeast of the blaze, where the wind has dragged the smoke, a white haze hangs over the hills.

The fire is burning about 10 miles from the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, according to a fire spokesman. But the observatory is not endangered.

Keith Baker, a telescope technician, said the telescopes were open Monday night, though workers at the observatory kept a close watch on the blaze. "As long as the wind doesn't change directions, we're OK," he said.

Contact Leslie Griffy at or (408) 920-5945.