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A dozen homes destroyed as Loma fire scorches Santa Cruz Mountains

A wildfire burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains destroyed a dozen homes and 16 other structures as firefighters tackled flames lingering in steep hillsides dried up by drought.

Now 81% contained, the Loma fire incinerated nearly 4,500 acres 10 miles northwest of Morgan Hill in Santa Clara County, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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The destructive blaze, which started Sept. 26, has triggered mandatory evacuations for residents in the Loma Prieta ridgeline area and continued to threaten 81 homes, fire officials said.

Firefighters worked through the night to strengthen lines surrounding the blaze. Although much of the landscape is parched from five years of drought, firefighters have been able to decrease the threat of flames from spreading to nearby shrubs and have begun erosion control measures to protect against mudslides that could be unleashed by expected rains.

On Monday, Cal Fire also warned that a group of people have been fraudulently asking for donations on behalf of their agency.

"They are reportedly requesting cash for operations related to base camp at Christmas Hill Park and firefighting efforts associated with the fire," Cal Fire said in a statement. "CAL FIRE cannot, is not, and will not accept donations for the Loma Fire Incident. It is against the law for California state agencies to solicit or accept any donation for its own use."

The cause of the wildfire has not been determined, Cal Fire said.

Rain is expected Monday and could help dampen flames, according to the National Weather Service in San Francisco.

But the showers won't stick around.

By Tuesday, dry and warm weather will return and persist for the rest of the week.

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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