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CZU Lightning Complex Fires burn 86,509 acres, 99% contained

cal fire czu august lightning
Cal Fire CZU

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION) UPDATE 9/20/2020 11 p.m. The CZU Lightning Complex is holding at 86,509 acres, and containment has grown to 99%, according to Cal Fire.

UPDATE 9/16/2020 7 a.m. The CZU Lightning Complex is holding at 86,509 acres, and containment has grown to 95%, according to Cal Fire.

The agency says it expects the fire to be fully contained sometime this weekend. It was started by dry lightning on Aug. 26, and since then, it has destroyed 925 homes in Santa Cruz County. Thousands of people were evacuated, and one person died.

UPDATE 9/16/2020 7 a.m. Cal Fire reports that the CZU Lightning Complex is 86,509 acres and 93% contained.

UPDATE 9/15/2020 11:30 a.m. The CZU Lightning Complex Fires are holding at 86,509 acres, but containment is up to 91%. Cal Fire said there is minimal activity around most of the fire, but they are continuing to mop up and control hot spots.

UPDATE 9/14/2020 11 a.m. Cal Fire said there is minimal activity around most of the CZU Lightning Complex.

It is still 86,509 acres and 89% contained.

UPDATE 9/13/2020 11:30 p.m. Cal Fire reports that the CZU Lightning Complex fires are holding at 86,509 acres, and containment is up to 89%.

A tree cutter was significantly injured in a fall last Monday, and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said that delayed some reopenings. More evacuation orders are expected to reopen in the coming days.

Smoke and weather made it difficult for PG&E to fly poles in, according to the Sheriff's Office.

UPDATE 9/10/2020 7 a.m. Cal Fire reports that the CZU Lightning Complex Fires are holding at 86,509 acres, but containment has gone up to 84%. The expected full containment date is still to be determined.

UPDATE 9/9/2020 7 a.m. Cal Fire reports that the CZU Lightning Complex fires are now up to 83% contained, but it is still 86,509 acres.

UPDATE 9/8/20 4:45 p.m. -

Cal Fire reports the CZU Lightning Complex has burned 86,509 acres, and containment has increased to 81 percent.

Some evacuation orders were reduced to evacuation warnings Tuesday, meaning more areas in Boulder Creek and north of Bonny Doon are able to return home.

However, Cal Fire warms critical fire weather is expected through Wednesday and there could be increased fire activity.

UPDATE 9/7/2020 7 a.m. Cal Fire reports that the CZU Lightning Complex Fires are still at 86,509 acres, but it is up to 76% contained as of Monday morning.

UPDATE 9/6/20 10:25 PM The CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties has burned 86,509 acres and is 72 percent contained as of Sunday evening.

UPDATE 9/5/20 The CZU Lightning Complex Fire has burned through 86,509 acres and is 64% contained as of 7:14 p.m. Saturday.

Cal FIRE CZU said more areas in ben Lomond, Boulder Creek and the Pineridge community were repopulated Saturday.

UPDATE 9/4/2020 6:29 p.m. CAL FIRE CZU reports that the CZU Lightning complex Fire has not grown in size, but that containment has risen to 58% as of 6:00 p.m.

6,380 people were able to come home Friday. 1,830 remain evacuated.

As of Friday, most of Bonny Doon and northern Boulder Creek has been permitted to repopulate. Authorities hope that residents of the Pine Flat Road and Empire Grade areas of Bonny Doon will be able to return Saturday. Authorities are also hoping to repopulate the area of the Boulder Creek Gold Club in the coming days.

1,490 structures have been damaged in the fire. 1,431 of them are in Santa Cruz County. Of those 1,431 structures, 911 are residential homes.

Public Works Director Matt Machado said that residents will see colored plaques on various structures when they return home. The plaques indicate whether or not a building is safe to enter. Red plaques meaning "do not enter," while yellow ones indicate that only certain parts of the structure can be entered. There will be instructions on yellow plaques detailing what parts of the structure can and cannot be entered.

If you find that your home has been tagged with a yellow or red plaque, please call (831)-454-2181 or 8000-REDCROSS if it is after regular business hours.

UPDATE 9/4/2020 4:06 p.m. CAL FIRE CZU reports that the CZU Lightning Complex Fire has burned 86,509 acres and is 56% contained as of approximately 7:30 a.m.

Residents of Boulder Creek and Bonny Doon may begin repopulating the area, said CAL FIRE CZU. This comes as several evacuation orders for the CZU Lightning Complex Fire have been reduced to warnings. 

Those living near the eastern fire's edge, in zones FEL-3B, CRZ-12A and BEN-1A, may return home. Boulder Creek residents in zones CRZ-13B, CRZ-14C, BOU-19, BOU-23, BOU-24, BOU-35, BOU-39, BOU-40, BOU-41, BOU-42 and BOU-43 may also return. And Bonny Doon residents living in zones CRZ-5A, CRZ-7 and CRZ-8A can also go home. 

For an interactive map showing which zones are under evacuation click here.

Although the orders have been reduced to warnings, CAL FIRE says that residents still need be ready to leave in an instant should they be told to do so. 

In other news, highway 9 is once again open to traffic, but drivers should expect delays caused by crews and utility workers working in the area.

UPDATE 9/3/2020 6:30 p.m. Cal Fire reports that the CZU Lightning Complex Fires have burned 86,102 acres and is 51% contained. A spokesperson said they expect to have the final acreage that will hold by tomorrow.

Damage assessment has been finished, and Cal Fire said 1,490 structures have been destroyed. More than 1,400 of those are in Santa Cruz County, and 925 are single-family homes. The fires are threatening 7,646 structures.

On Thursday, areas south of Bonny Doon were transitioned from an evacuation order to an evacuation warning, and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said it hopes to allow more people to return home as it becomes safe to do so.

A spokesperson for the County Administrative Office that an initial assessment found that there was more than $300 million in damage, but that number will continue to be updated.

UPDATE 9/3/2020 7 a.m. Cal Fire said the CZU Lightning Complex Fires have burned 85,746 acres and are 48% contained.

About 7,600 structures are threatened, and 925 homes have been destroyed.

UPDATE 9/2/2020 5 p.m. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office announced that evacuation orders around Brookdale and Boulder Creek were reduced to warnings Wednesday, and they expect more people to go home soon.

Sheriff Jim Hart said more than 70,000 people were evacuated because of the CZU Lightning Complex Fires, but more than 60,000 have returned home now. He said he empathizes with those who have lost homes or who are still evacuated, but wants to allow people back when it's safe to do so.

Hart said that in his 32 years in law enforcement, this is the most devastating disaster he has seen. He said that a road will be clear one day, and the next day there will be more fallen trees on the road, and he said crews are working hard to make the area safe.

In terms of repopulation, Chief Deputy Chris Clark said they have been working from east to west, but now they are trying to get into Bonny Doon and areas less impacted by the fire.

Clark said there were no arrests or citations last night or today. Two people are still missing, but detectives believe they do not live in the fire impacted area and are not likely to be fire victims.

The Sheriff's Office said it will be restarting its 6 p.m. news conferences along with Cal Fire, utilities and water districts.

UPDATE 9/2/2020 7 a.m. Cal Fire reports that the CZU August Lightning Complex has burned 85,467 acres and is 46% contained.

As of Wednesday, 7,647 structures were threatened, according to Cal Fire. The agency reported that about 6,700 were threatened as of Monday evening and 7,171 as of Tuesday evening.

More than 900 homes have been destroyed, and most of those are in Santa Cruz County.

UPDATE 9/1/2020 7 a.m. Cal Fire said the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties have burned 85,218 acres. The fires are up to 43% contained.

UPDATE 8/31/2020 6:30 p.m. Cal Fire said in a press briefing that the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires have burned 85,060 acres, and the fire is 41% contained.

More than 6,700 structures are still threatened, but Cal Fire said 1,453 have been destroyed in total. 1,401 of the structures are in Santa Cruz County, and of those, 901 are single-family homes.

More personnel have joined the fire fight, and now 2,394 personnel are working on it in total. Troops with the California National Guard began work on the fire today.

Cal Fire said fire suppression in the north part of the fire was the main focus Monday, but the coast and southern end are looking good. There is mop up happening on Highway 9, but there are still burned-out trees and heavy fuels in the area. Aircraft was able to assist today, and nearly 100,000 gallons of water were dropped.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office also reported dangers in fire-impacted areas. While driving around, officials saw utilities all around the area working on lines and various agencies working on roads.

No evacuation orders were lifted today because crews still need the room to work, but the Sheriff's Office said they are taking repopulation day by day. In the area north of Brookdale, the San Lorenzo Valley Water District said the water is not drinkable because pipes were damaged.

Two people were arrested Monday for being in the fire area without any business being there, and two people are still missing.

Over the next few days, Cal Fire said it is expecting warmer and dryer weather, so people in the area can expect to be smoke. They are also warning residents to be vigilant because new fires could start.

Emergency Operations Manager Rosemary Anderson said Santa Cruz County will be consolidating shelters this week, and there will only be four run by the Red Cross. They will be the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, Seventh Day Adventist, Simpkins Family Swim Center and Harbor High School. There is also a recovery resource center at Kaiser Permanente Arena with agencies and departments providing resources.

Officials said this will be the last regularly scheduled press briefing, but they will continue to release information at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and will hold press briefings as-needed.

UPDATE 8/31/2020 7 a.m. The CZU August Lightning Complex Fires have burned 84,860 acres and are 39% contained, according to Cal Fire. A total of 861 homes have been destroyed, and most of those are in Santa Cruz County. More than 6,700 structures are still threatened.

Damage inspection is now 97% complete.

Over the weekend, the California National Guard arrived, and they will now be helping with fire suppression. They will not be helping with security or law enforcement, according to Cal Fire.

UPDATE 8/30/2020 7:55 p.m. The CZU August Lightning Complex Fires burning in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties has reached 84,760 acres. It is now 37% contained as of Sunday.

300 California National Guard personnel arrived in Santa Cruz county this afternoon to bolster the efforts against the fire. They will be put on the fire lines on Monday to help with fire suppression and mop up efforts.

Cal Fire says the National Guard will not be doing any law enforcement or patrol activities. Today, firefighters continued buffering the lines along the Highway 9 corridor.

UPDATE 8/29/2020 7:20 p.m. The CZU August Lightning Complex Fires burning in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties has reached 84,338 acres, according to Cal Fire. It is now up to 33% contained.

9,374 structures are still threatened. 1,094 structures have been damaged -- 20 in San Mateo County.

The fire remained active overnight and firing operations were successful on the CZU Lightning Complex.

Elevated temperatures will begin on Sunday and continue through much of next week with very warm to hot conditions across most inland areas.

Many known and unknown hazards exist following an intense fire. This includes fire weakened or dead trees that can fall without warning, burned out stumps creating holes under trails and damage to parking areas and roads.

UPDATE 8/28/2020 6:30 p.m. The CZU August Lightning Complex Fires burning in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties has reached 83,133 acres, according to Cal Fire. It is 27% contained.

More than 10,000 structures are still threatened, and 831 are destroyed. Of those, 820 are in Santa Cruz County and 575 are single-family homes. More than 2,000 people are assigned to fight the fire.

Responding agencies say there is still a high risk of fire-impacted trees falling - another reason why they are pleading with people not to return to evacuated areas.

Officials also said that there have been "civilians" injured after stepping into "hot ash pits" and receiving burns.

About 45,000 people remain evacuated after orders were lifted in the Zayante and Lompico areas.

View evacuation map here

Santa Cruz County is opening a "recovery resource center" at Kaiser Arena for impacted residents. It will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

UPDATE 8/28/2020 6:40 a.m. The CZU Lightning Complex Fires have grown to 82,540 acres, but containment has also grown to 26%, according to Cal Fire.

The agency said 13,300 structures are still threatened and 799 have been destroyed. Of those, 788 are in Santa Cruz County and 554 are single-family homes.

There are now more than 2,000 personnel assigned to fighting the fire.

Officials said yesterday was a productive day, but there were setbacks. There was a 30 acre slop-over yesterday near Ben Lomond and Brookdale, which means fire crossed one of their lines. They said they are continuing to work there and in other areas, and they now have help from the National Guard.

One of the challenges has been clearing roadways.

No citations or arrests were made last night, according to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office, but they provided an update on what appeared to be a pipe bomb found by crews in the Boulder Creek area Thursday. Chief Deputy Chris Clark said the device was detonated, and now they are investigating why it was there and determining what it is. The Sheriff's Office served a search warrant, but could not say the outcome while they continue to investigate.

Clark also said the hope is that more people will be able to return home today, but it can be hard to predict due to the changing nature of the fire.

UPDATE 8/27/20 8:30 p.m. - The CZU Lightning Complex continues to grow, slightly, in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, now having burned 81,479 acres. Containment has increased to 24 percent.

Scotts Valley and surrounding areas, including Pasatiempo, Paradise Park and Cave Gulch had their evacuation orders lifted. About 50,000 people remain evacuated as of Thursday night.

View the evacuation map here.

Damage assessment has been completed for 65 percent of the fire area. 746 structures have been destroyed in the CZU Lightning fire, with 735 in Santa Cruz County.

View the damage assessment map here.

Cal Fire and law enforcement agencies are now warning people about another danger in the burn areas - damaged trees and roads. Weakened trees have started to fall and destroyed one structure. Crews are starting road and tree clearing efforts so more damaged areas can be accessed, but this is also a warning for people not to travel to evacuated areas.

Cal Fire and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office discussed their efforts to get people back into their homes. Felton is described as "day-to-day." More fire-impacted areas, like Boulder Creek and Bonny Doon, are likely still weeks away, due to utilities and roads (infrastructure) needing to be repaired.

Firefighters are looking for fire in drainages, naming Davenport and Boulder Creek specifically as communities where this effort is happening.

Cal Fire says there are flames "up on the ridge" away from the Boulder Creek community, but there is still a lot of work to do because they have to build their lines and cut around structures that are "tucked in". A similar effort is underway in Bonny Doon.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office also discussed an investigation is underway in Boulder Creek for a possible pipe bomb. Chief Deputy Chris Clark says a tool box was discovered in the 100 block of Lake Drive. Firefighters noticed what appeared to be an explosive device. This investigation could lead to charges for manufacturing an explosive device.

On Thursday, the sheriff's office also announced a man has been arrested for stealing a wallet from a Cal Fire commander and using the credit cards. Live Oak resident Brian Johnson was arrested on multiple felony charges, including forgery, grand theft, credit card theft, possession of stolen property and probation violation.

UPDATE 8/27/2020 6:30 a.m. Cal Fire said in a Thursday morning briefing that the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires have grown to 81,333 and are still 21% contained.

About 23,000 structures are threatened and 646 have been destroyed. Of the destroyed structures, 635 are in Santa Cruz County.

Officials said they have had success around containment lines and are now working to get Caltrans more access to roadways. More air support is expected today. Aircraft were not used as much as expected Wednesday because the marine layer lasted longer than anticipated.

It was a quiet night for law enforcement and no arrests were made, according to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office. Of three people reported missing as of Wednesday evening, one has been found. Detectives are continuing to look for the other two.

The Sheriff's Office said it is now working toward getting people home. Chief Deputy Chris Clark said the process will be systematic and methodical. Crews want to make sure repopulated areas have electricity, safe roadways and water.

Cal Fire is expecting dryer conditions in the coming days and expect fire activity to increase a little, but said their plans will not be changing dramatically.

UPDATE 8/26/2020 6:30 p.m. Officials from Cal Fire and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office shared their optimism about progress on the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires Wednesday evening, and they even shared when some Santa Cruz County residents may be able to return home.

Chief Deputy Chris Clark said the process is systematic and that he could only give rough figures.

He expects that people in Scotts Valley and surrounding unincorporated areas could be allowed to return home within a day or a few days, but said that is still subject to change. Other areas are expected to take longer- in Felton, he said it could be days to a week because of the success they have had in the area. Further north, especially around the Highway 9 corridor, Clark said it could be a week to weeks because the areas were more damaged. Heading into Boulder Creek, the 236 area and Bonny Doon, it could potentially take weeks because of the extent of the damage.

Just as the briefing was starting, Cal Fire issued a notice saying that evacuation orders have been lifted for the UC Santa Cruz campus, but the chief of police at the university said it will be a systematic and phased repopulation. Those living at the campus are told to watch their email for instructions.

One of the ways to find out if your area will be allowed to repopulate is to use the map below:

You can zoom in to look at the street level and find your zone. Zones will turn green when evacuation orders are lifted there. Clark said law enforcement will continue to patrol areas as people return home.

Shortly before the briefing started, Clark also shared an update on the missing persons cases detectives have been investigating. This morning, there were three missing people, and now there are only three. Find the details here.

A 73-year-old man had to be rescued from the evacuation zone, and officials said the rescue diverted crews from the fire fight. The man tried to return to his home, but took a trail and got lost. He spent two nights in the woods before he was reported missing and a search and rescue operation was started. One person was injured on a mountain bike during the search. Clark stressed the importance of staying away from evacuation zones for the safety of community members and the public.

Crews planned to conduct a burn operation between Ben Lomond and Felton Wednesday, but there were delays. The delays were partly due to fog that stuck around the area, but there was also a delay because one of the crew members had someone break into their fire department vehicle and steal protective equipment.

Cal Fire officials said they expect good days ahead, and today the containment rose to 21%. It has burned 81,137 acres. 590 structures have been destroyed, and 579 of them are in Santa Cruz County. Crews estimate that 55% of the burned area has been canvased and much of what is left are interior areas.

Going forward into the coming months, Cal Fire officials said they plan to continue putting out areas and expect that old growth trees could take months.

UPDATE 8/26/2020 6:30 a.m. As of Wednesday morning, the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires have burned 80,137 acres, and the fire is 19% contained.

24,000 structures are currently threatened. So far, crews have found 538 destroyed, and of those, 527 are in Santa Cruz County.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office responded to a welfare check overnight, and Chief Deputy Chris Clark said a 53-year-old woman was found dead. He said she appears to have died of natural causes. There were no apparent signs of foul play or forced entry.

Overall, the Sheriff's Office said it was a quiet night with few people out and no arrests. There will be 70 members of law enforcement patrolling the evacuation area throughout the day.

Cal Fire said that if they have success in the next day or two and are able to set up perimeters, people living in Scotts Valley may be able to return in several days, but he said he would not make any guarantees.

"If we can successfully go through the next 24 to 30 hours, get the perimeter established in there, over the course of the next 72 to 120 hours-that's anywhere from four to five days out- we will look at hopefully bringing some sense of normalcy back to this area. Obviously, it's all dependent upon weather conditions, how successful we are out on the ground itself, but we have detailed plans to strategically start moving folks back in when it is safe to do so," said Inicident Commander Billy See.

There are currently 6 reported missing. There were 7 as of Tuesday morning, but two people were found during the day and one was added overnight.

UPDATE 8/25/2020 6:40 p.m. Officials provided an update on the CZU August Complex Lightning Fires Tuesday evening, saying the fire has burned 79,640 acres. It is also now 19% contained.

About 24,000 structures are threatened, and 443 have been destroyed. 432 of the destroyed structures are in Santa Cruz County.

About 347 people that the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office knows of chose to stay in the evacuation area despite orders.

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo was at the briefing and spoke about the teamwork that she has seen visiting the emergency operations center and the evacuation center at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. She said it is heart wrenching, but said the progress is remarkable. She also made a point of thanking the inmates who have been fighting the fire alongside Cal Fire and other agencies.

Cal Fire officials said it was a positive day with a lot of success. They said weather has cooperated with their efforts, and now new reinforcements are going out on the line. Today, aircraft have dropped about 195,000 gallons of water during the fire fight.

Chief Deputy Chris Clark with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said no arrests were made today and said progress has been made in finding the suspect accused of stealing a firefighter's wallet. As of Tuesday morning, seven people had been reported missing, but since then detectives have found two of them. Of the five remaining missing people, three are from Bonny Doon, one is from Ben Lomond and one is from Boulder Creek.

Hours before the press conference, the Sheriff's Office put out a damage assessment map to allow people to type in their addresses and see if their homes may have been affected by the fire. The information is still preliminary.

Officials also stressed the importance of having defensible space around homes. In Bonny Doon, they said defensible space gave several homes a fighting chance, but many of the destroyed homes did not have defensible space.

Anyone in need of assistance can go to disasterassistance.gov or download the FEMA app.

UPDATE 8/25/2020 6:30 a.m. The Warnell Fire has merged into CZU Lightning. The CZU Lightning Complex Fires have grown a few acres to 78,869 acres, but it is up to 17% contained.

Cal Fire said 25,000 structures are threatened and 330 have been destroyed. Of those, 319 are in Santa Cruz County.

The agency said they are making good progress, and that is due in part to a lack of heavy north winds and an increase in relative humidity in lower elevations. There is an onshore pushing in, but said the wind is pushing the fire in the direction they want.

Crews said it was a quiet night with few people out and only 11 calls for service.

A spokesperson for the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said some roads have become impassable due to falling branches. When roads are cleared, he said damage assessment crews will be able to get into more areas.

UPDATE 8/24/2020 6:30 p.m. Cal Fire and assisting agencies held a press conference Monday evening to provide an update on efforts to contain the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires.

The fire has grown to 78,684 acres and is still 13% contained, but 276 structures have been destroyed so far. Most of the structures are in Santa Cruz County.

Crews said today was a good day for firefighting and shared optimism about the coming days. Cal Fire said cooperating weather and additional resources sent in allowed them to make good progress. More resources and heavy equipment were brought in, but crews were also able to bring in aircraft. They said 200,000 gallons of retardant was dropped during the day.

Chief Deputy Chris Clark with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said there are 79 members of law enforcement patrolling the San Lorenzo Valley area. They have received 17 reports of suspicious persons and 11 calls for welfare checks.

Clark said arrests were made Monday. Two people were found in the evacuation zone, and he said one of them led law enforcement on a short chase. Two people were cited for being in the evacuation zone, even though they live there. He said if people are in the evacuation area, they should not be there and should expect to receive a citation.

Clark also identified the man who died in the fire. He said the man was 73-year-old Tad Jones, a Last Chance resident. His autopsy is pending.

While responding to a fire, a firefighter had his wallet stolen in Bonny Doon. Clark asked for the community's help finding the suspect and showed pictures of him. He said there has been an outpouring of support for the firefighter, but he and his family said insurance reimbursed them for the loss, so they do not need assistance.

Clark said Santa Cruz issued a pre-warning, but there is no imminent danger to the city. The pre-warning is an effort to keep residents prepared.

CZU Unit chief Ian Larkin also spoke at the press conference, and he said fighting the fire will be a long process. Larkin said it will not just go away in September or October, but crews will be working on the aftermath for as long as a year.

Currently, Cal Fire says the most challenging and concerning area is the Highway 9 corridor because it is an active area where they cannot employ traditional strategies and tactics.

Officials again emphasized the importance of staying away from evacuated areas because crews need space to operate and work safely.

UPDATE 8/24/2020 3 p.m. It appears that a 70-year-old man killed by the CZU Lightning Complex Fires was trying to escape, according to the CBS affiliate in the Bay Area.

KPIX reports that six others were trapped while trying to return to their evacuated homes near Davenport.

The man has not been identified, but his body was found on Last Chance near what officials think may be his vehicle.

The fire has grown to 78,000 acres and is 13% contained.

UPDATE 8/24/2020 6:15 a.m. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department announced the fire has now grown to 78,000 acres and is 13% contained. 1,511 personnel are fighting the fire. 231 structures have been destroyed and one death has been reported.

UPDATE 8/23/20 6:15. p.m. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department announced that person was killed by the CZU Lightning Complex Fire. The body was recovered in the area of Last Chance.

UPDATE 8/23/20 6:45 a.m. In a Sunday morning news briefing a Cal Fire spokesman says the size of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire has now grown to 71,000 acres and the containment inched up to 8%.

There are still more than 24,000 structures threatened and the number of structures destroyed climbed to 129 in both Santa Cruz and San Mateo County, although officials concede they are far from calculating the total damaged from this fire.

They haven't yet pinpointed which destroyed structures are homes and which are other structures like businesses and outbuildings.

1349 firefighter personnel are involved in fighting the fire. Lack of smoke on Saturday allowed Cal Fire to fly aircraft to fight the fire.

In the south edge of the fire, Cal Fire was able to improve a secondary contingency which helped prevent the fire from spreading toward the campus of UCSC and the city of Santa Cruz.

Smoke conditions remained heavy in the Highway 9 area near Boulder Creek, but fire fighters say they were able to keep the fire from making major progress toward the town.

In Ben Lomond, Cal Fire say resources are constructing a line on the ridge and say the fire has progressed to the top quarter of Alba Road but no further. A Cal Fire spokesman says a "significant amount of resources throughout yesterday and last night," have been devoted to protecting the community.

The fire has made no progress toward Felton. A spot fire that broke out there earlier has been put out

Fire has been widespread through the community of Bonny Doon. Resources have been focused on point protection. There have been no reports of structures lost in the overnight hours.

There are continued reports of people roaming around the evacuation zones. The Santa Cruz Sheriff's Office asks people to stay away from these areas since they are hindering the work of fire crews

Cal Fire also reports that one of their vehicles was broken into in an evacuation zone. The fire ground commander's wallet was taken and his bank account drained while he was directing fire fighting crews.

UPDATE 8/22/20 6:30 p.m. More than 100 structures have been destroyed by the CZU Lightning Complex Fires, Cal Fire said during Saturday's evening press conference.

The fires have burned 67,000 acres and are currently 5% contained.

Thousands of structures are considered threatened and the fire has forced more than 70,000 people to evacuate their homes.

For the latest evacuation information, view the map below.

In addition, multiple state parks and state forests are closed due to the fires.

The entirety of Soquel Demonstration State Forest is closed.

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is closed north of Sand Point on Aptos Creek Fire Road to Buzzard Lagoon Road. This includes trails in this portion of the park. The forest is also closed in the area of Hinkley Basin and Hinkley Basin Fire Road from Sand Point to Olive Springs Rd.

More than 1,300 fire personnel are on scene battling this fire.

There have been two confirmed injuries.

For a more detailed breakdown of this fire, visit the Cal Fire website.

UPDATE 8/22/20 6:30 a.m. Progress has been made fighting the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires this morning. The fires have jumped to 63,000 acres overnight while the containment inched up to 5%. But firefighters say a new control line has helped protect the city of Santa Cruz and the UCSC campus.

A Cal Fire spokesman says over 24,000 structures are threatened and 97 have been destroyed. Reduced wind and a moisture atmosphere helped the fire fighting efforts, especially on the northern part of the fire lines.

On the south and western edge of the fire, in the Davenport area, the fire did make a run for the community but firefighters were able to beat back the flames. Control lines around the community are being monitored.

Meantime the fire has made an advancement in the Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond communities along the Highway 9 corridor. However, a Cal Fire spokesman says the fire has yet to make a "hard advance" into the community.

In Felton, a spot fire was put out quickly. Resources continue to be stretched thin which is being blamed for some of the structural losses.

A fire break line has been built between Highway 1 and Highway 9 in the southern part of the fire just above the UCSC campus to help protect the university and the city of Santa Cruz and Capitola. "It's not the silver bullet but it gives us a strong point to keep the fire from moving southward into those communities," according to a Cal Fire Incident Commander, Mark Brunton. A secondary fire break is now being put in today.

UPDATE 8/21/2020 6:30 p.m. The CZU August Lightning Complex Fires are still about 57,000 acres, but it is now 2% contained.

Despite the good news of containment, Cal Fire said at least 97 structures have been destroyed. No additional injuries have been reported.

Some of the areas of most concern are the Highway 9 corridor, the area around Empire Grade Road and Bonny Doon. Bonny Doon in particular was hit hard, they said. There is currently no direct threat to the UC Santa Cruz campus or the City of Santa Cruz, according to Cal Fire. They said it is relatively safe, but not to let the guard down because conditions can change.

Cal Fire said progress was made today because of cooler temperatures and a change in wind, but said they are still strapped for resources. Cal Fire said crews have worked double and triple shifts in their effort to contain the fire, but they are getting more federal, state and local resources.

Officials stressed the importance of leaving evacuation areas and not returning to avoid putting crews at risk.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said it has 60 people out patrolling, and five people were arrested on suspicion of burglary.

UPDATE 8/21/2020 6:20 a.m. Cal Fire has updated information on the fire fight in a press conference Friday morning. The CZU August Lightning Complex Fires have now expanded in size to 50,000 acres. There is still 0% containment. A Cal Fire spokesman says 3 people who refused to be evacuated had to be rescued.

Cal Fire is urging the public to obey all evacuation orders noting that anyone who stays behind and has to be saved strains resources that have been devoted to fighting the fires.

UPDATE 8/20/2020 6:30 p.m. Cal Fire said in a press conference Thursday evening that the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires have grown to 48,000 acres, but there is still no containment.

A total of 20,952 structures are threatened, and at least 50 have been destroyed. Cal Fire said it believes the number of destroyed structures will hit triple digits.

Nearly 50,000 people in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties have been told to leave their homes.

Wednesday night, Scotts Valley, the UC Santa Cruz campus, and Paradise Park were issued evacuation orders.

The battalion chief said crews took advantage of favorable weather today, but they expect increased activity this evening. He said Davenport is threatened, but the fire is subsiding near the coast. It has crested above Felton, Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek and moved down to Highway 9. The battalion chief said crews have been able to save some structures near Empire Grade Road.

During the press conference, Chief Deputy Clark with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said a mandatory evacuation is being put in place for Scotts Valley.

He said to try to check in with loved ones via the Red Cross if you are not able to find them yourself, but if they are still not found, report them missing.

The agencies said they have seen issues with people staying despite evacuation orders or returning. Officials ask that people under evacuation orders evacuate, but also warn against returning, even with the intention of helping. Evacuations help crews respond to hard-to-reach places.

UPDATE 8/20/20 7:00 a.m.: Cal Fire said in a press conference Thursday morning that the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties have grown to 40,000 acres and is 0% contained.

They said this is something they've never seen before and because the area has no significant fire history, the fuel that's built up over the years is bad news.

Weather conditions are expected to take a huge toll on these fires in the coming days.

Helicopters are not able to get in the air for retardant drops because the smoke is so thick.

UPDATE 8/19/2020 6:30 p.m. Cal Fire said in a press conference Wednesday evening that the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties has grown to 25,000 acres.

There is currently no containment, and it appears that at least 20 homes have been destroyed. No new injuries have been reported, but three firefighters had minor injuries earlier. They were released from hospitals.

Crews said Bonny Doon has been directly impacted by the fires, and in is heading in the direction of Empire Grade Road.

Cal Fire and Santa Cruz County ordered the evacuation of the Davenport area.

UPDATE: Evacuate the vicinity of Davenport south to the city limits. This includes Davenport, Davenport Landing, Coast Road etc. LEAVE NOW.

Posted by County of Santa Cruz on Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Just after 11 p.m., Santa Cruz County and Cal Fire announced the immediate evacuation order for Ben Lomond and Lompico.

All areas south of Bear Creek between 9 and 17 and down to the city limits of Santa Cruz are in an evacuation advisory.

Upper San Lorenzo Valley residents are asked to evacuate, and those west of Highway 17 are asked to prepare for possible evacuation.

Because of the amount of smoke the fires have given off, aircraft are not able to respond, and they do not anticipate that aircraft will be able to assist for at least the next 24 hours.

UPDATE 8/19/20 7:30a.m. 22,000 people have been evacuated in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties for the August Lightning Complex Fires, and more evacuations are expected.

Currently a total of 590 firefighters are on the line and they are all working double shifts because there is no relief coming.

Three firefighters have been injured, thankfully no injuries are believed to be life threatening.

6,000 structures are threatened (many homes) and there are structures destroyed, but Cal Fire doesn’t know how many at this point.

PREVIOUS STORY: Cal Fire has ordered evacuations in Santa Cruz County due to the "August Lightning Complex," a series of fires that sparked in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. The Sunday morning lightning storm is believed to be the cause of the fire. Santa Cruz County says fires in San Mateo county have "merged and crossed into Santa Cruz County, aided by winds and warm temperatures."

According to Santa Cruz County, the following communities need to EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY:

Boulder Creek, Brookdale, Las Cumbres, Castle Rock, Indian Rock, Waterman Gap Loop, Upper 236, Boulder Creek Golf Course, Heartwood Hill, Lodge Road, Little Basin, Lower and Upper China Grade, Kings Highway, Lower Jamison Creek, Gallion Heights, Fallen Leaf, Foxglove Lane, Last Chance Road, Whitehouse Canyon Road.

Empire Grade Road from Felton Empire north, Pine Flat Road, Ice Cream Grade, Bonny Doon Road between Pine Flat Road, Martin Road.

Davenport South, including Davenport, Davenport Landing, Coast Road

Santa Cruz County says other areas south of these orders are under an evacuation warning. All areas adjacent to the Bonny Doon and San Lorenzo Valley should be prepared to evacuate if necessary.

View the evacuation map here.

EVACUATION CENTER:

  • Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 E Lake Ave.

ASSISTANCE:

  • If you have been evacuated and need assistance with accommodations call 866-272-2237
  • Animal assistance, call 831-471-1182.

Warenella Fire: 300 acres, 10% contained, Cement Plant Rd/HWY 1

Waddell Fire: 500 acres, 0% contained, Old Coast Road/HWY 1

5-14 (San Mateo Co.) – 2000 ac. 0% contained, Olmo Truck Trail/Butano Fire Road

5-15 (San Mateo Co.) – 2500 ac. 0% contained, N. Butano Truck Trail /Dearborne Park Road

5-18 (San Mateo Co.) – 2500 ac. 0% contained, N. Butano Truck Trail/China Grade Road

MANDATORY EVACUATIONS:

  • All of Boulder Creek Fire Protection District 
  • Evacuate SOUTH on Hwy 9, or EAST on Bear Creek Road
  • Waterman Gap Loop, Upper 236, Boulder Creek Golf Course, Heartwood Hill, Lodge Road, Community of Little Basin, Lower China Grade, Upper China Grade, Community of Kings Hwy, Lower Jamison Creek, Gallion Heights, Fallen Leaf Neighborhood, Foxglove Lane 
  • Evacuate SOUTH on HWY 236 (Big Basin Hwy) towards Boulder Creek, then access Hwy 9 SOUTH to Santa Cruz
  • Saratoga Toll Road, San Lorenzo Park, Riverside Grove-Community of Teilh Drive, Wildwood Road
  • Evacuate NORTH on Hwy 9 to Santa Clara County

A Cal Fire spokesperson tells KION that they had to issue the evacuation order Tuesday because winds picked up in steep, inaccessible terrain that was challenging for their crews.

Resources are stretched due to a number of fires all across California, prioritized for areas where homes and communities are threatened.

There is a Type 1 Incident Management Team coming to Santa Cruz County Wednesday morning.

Classes are also being canceled. The Bonny Doon Elementary School District tells KION the following message has been sent to parents: "Due to evacuation orders in Bonny Doon, all class meetings are canceled for Wednesday, August 19, 2020. More information will follow as it is available. Please be safe and take care."

Santa Cruz County / Top Stories / Wildfires

Aaron Groff

Aaron Groff is an evening co-anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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