The Cienega Fire continues to grow as it rages in the hills southwest of Hollister, expanding from 300 acres early Tuesday morning to 600 acres by early afternoon, according to CalFire. Crews had it 10 percent contained around 3 p.m.
Smoke from the blaze, which began on Monday, could be seen throughout the region, as it rose above the Gabilan Range on the west side of San Benito County. Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area, which is located along Cienega Road, announced Tuesday afternoon that the Upper Ranch area of the park "is closed as a precautionary measure due to the fire." The Lower Ranch area of the park remained open. "The fire is a few miles away at this point," the park noted on its Facebook page around 2:45 p.m.
First reported around 4 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 12, the blaze quickly grew to 75 acres and spread to 200 acres by that evening. Crews from throughout the county responded to the blaze on the ground, and CalFire planes from the Air Attack Base at the Hollister Airport made repeated trips to drop fire retardant on the blaze.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The amount of fire personnel on scene had doubled overnight, reaching 256 people by Tuesday morning, and the amount of fire engines more than tripled to 26. Eight fire crews, four bulldozers, two water tenders and two helicopters were assigned to the blaze.
Joe Nehls, of Our Farms in Paicines, said that CalFire helicopters have been busy scooping water out of his neighbor's retention pond as firefighting planes make frequent flyovers to dump retardant on the blaze. "The wind was blowing the smoke towards the northwest," Nehls told BenitoLink by email Tuesday afternoon, "or I'd be writing this from a different location. "Larger planes and helicopters have just arrived as it seems the fire has the better of them for the moment."
Nehls noted that he saw three state corrections officers guarding a truck while inmates went to fight the fire. "The entire west mountainside was charred, black, smoldering trees," he added.