An inferno of hot flames swept rapidly across the Santa Cruz mountains halfway through this past October, prompting over 200 families to evacuate their homes and leading to the arrest of the arsonist: Marlon Coy.
The fire was started intentionally on the night of October 16th when Coy, 54, sparked an argument between himself and another man investigators declined to name. The origin of the fire began at a house which spread rapidly. Not soon after, around 200 Boulder Creek residents were required to evacuate their homes promptly. Coy was a resident of Boulder Creek, although that did not prevent him from looting his own neighbors temporarily vacated homes. Deputies found him riding a stolen bike in Live Oak while carrying a backpack full of stolen jewels. 75-year-old Emmanuela Raquelle, a resident of Boulder Creek expressed her feelings regarding Coy, saying: “I want him to rot in jail,” His steal totalled $15,000, a small number compared to the $7.1 million required to control the fire he himself began. “If not for the heroic efforts of first responders, (Coy) could easily be facing murder charges today,” Sheriff Hart said. “I want to thank CalFire.” Coy was arrested on account of looting, burglary, causing injury to firefighters, destroying forests, and suspicion of arson. He has been in a Santa Cruz County Jail since his original arrest and was re-arrested the following Friday. His bail was set at $800,000.
During the fire, Bear Creek Road was closed under a hazy sun, as well as Boulder Creek Elementary cancelling classes for the day. Firefighters had difficulty containing the flames due to rugged, steep terrain. Gaining a foothold over the blaze eventually came, although several people were injured, but not seriously hurt. A prison inmate helping battle the raging heat was treated for smoke inhalation, and several other firefighters took some tough falls while toiling on the uneven terrain. One firefighter took a tumble down a 50 foot slope and was treated for a wrist injury. Despite several buildings burning down and a couple minor injuries occurring, the fire was handled well and the inhabitants of Boulder Creek prevailed. The heroic and dedicated firefighters were thanked across the valley, numerous signs were displayed showing the gratitude of many.
Two homes, four outbuildings, 17 cars, and several firefighters were hurt in the process of restraining the fire. By October 27th, the fire was 100% contained, much to the relief of residents throughout the valley. Since then, all evacuation orders have been lifted, and Boulder Creek citizens have been able to safely return to their homes. Megan Phillips, a Boulder Creek resident, received a phone call at 4 a.m. ordering her family to evacuate their home immediately, leaving only 15 minutes for them to pack their belongings and stay in a hotel. “I felt really scared and worried because that’s where I grew up” said Megan, “The thought of losing my house was so scary.” Undoubtedly, other families living in the same area were feeling the exact same way, worrying first about their homes and then concerned about their own possessions being stolen. Fortunately, no serious harm was done to anyone, and the citizens of Boulder Creek remained strong in times of trial.
Simultaneously, many firefighters were already preoccupied battling the fires that had begun previously not too far away, in Napa. The fires there were wind-driven, luckily the flames that spread in Boulder Creek were not related to winds, which had been calm at the time. However, the fires in Napa had a far longer lasting and far reaching effect. 42 people were killed and nearly 9,000 buildings were destroyed.
By Callie Solberg
Photo by KSBW