holding a tool
Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz firefighters fought a fire at Hidden Oaks Monday. (Drew Penner / Press Banner)

Firefighters put out a midday garage fire at the Hidden Oaks condominium complex in Scotts Valley in under an hour Monday.

Acting Battalion Chief Garrett Grieg, of the Scotts Valley Fire Protection District, said the blaze was primarily contained to a single parking unit just after noon.

Robert Erwin, the owner of Aloha Pool & Spa, said he arrived to service the complex’s aquatic areas about the time first responders began appearing.

“I showed up and saw the smoke coming out of the roof,” he said. “It got darker and blacker.”

He said the firefighters were operating in a swift and coordinated manner.

“The communication was great in between them all here,” he said.

Cheryl Windsor, the chief of assessment standards with the Santa Cruz County Assessor’s Office, was taking photographs of the mess left by the flames around 1pm.

“It didn’t damage the living units,” she said. “So, we’re just dealing with the garage.”

working the hose
Working the hose. (Drew Penner / Press Banner)

Windsor said there’s a County program that provides temporary tax relief to homeowners dealing with some forms of property damage.

In fact, about 800 properties received tax abatements following the CZU Lightning Complex fire, she noted.

In 2015 the garage directly across the parking lot went up in flames.

Grigg said because the design of the structure includes a shared roof, the fire ended up spreading to multiple parking units in that case.

Vertical firefighter
First responders arrived on scene quickly. (Drew Penner / Press Banner)

That’s why they decided to tear down the four garage doors of the one burning on Monday, to make sure they were as well-vented as possible, he explained.

The Santa Cruz Fire Department and American Medical Response also responded, although no one was injured so no transport was necessary.

ReNae Ammon, 58, has lived at Hidden Oaks since 2000 said she was worried about the impact the fire might have on the community’s homeowners’ association (HOA) fees.

“They probably just got worse,” she said. “They just raised them.”

The pools were about to get serviced, just as the fire began. (Drew Penner / Press Banner)

According to Ammon the fees at the Shoreline Property Management complex had been around $670—which was itself a hike from around $300-400 when she moved in. Now, she says, residents have to pay more than $800 a month.

Ammon said the downpour hours earlier likely helped to keep the fire under control.

“The last 24 hours of rain were probably to our benefit,” she said.

One car was particularly coated in soot. It’s owner, who asked not to be named, told the Press Banner it was a hybrid, but said it wasn’t plugged-in.

Fire Chief looks on
The fire chief (right) looks into the garage. (Drew Penner / Press Banner)

SVFPD Chief Mark Correira said while the cause remains under investigation, they don’t believe the origin was a vehicle.

Lori Coulsen, Shoreline’s community manager for Hidden Oaks, said it was too early to tell whether the fire would result in higher HOA fees in the future.

Garage door fragments
Garage door fragments. (Drew Penner / Press Banner)

“We have to wait for the fire report to come back,” she said. “Right now, we’re just working on getting everything secured.”

Coulsen wouldn’t say why the company recently just hiked rates so much without warning, but said she doesn’t think it was connected to the 2015 garage fire.

Further impacts to residents will depend on how much the insurance company is willing to cover, she said.

“We’re just so glad that everyone is okay and no one is harmed—and that the community is coming together,” she said, lauding the firefighters for their efforts. “We appreciate them coming out as quickly as they did.”

From behind garage
Garage damage shot from behind. (Drew Penner / Press Banner)
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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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