czu august lightning complex fire
The charred remains of a home and car are surrounded by a burned forest on Summit Drive off of Highway 9 north of Boulder Creek Friday morning after the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire passed through. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Update (6am, Aug. 26)

The CZU August Lightning Complex fires have now stretched to 80,137 acres and destroyed 538 structures, nearly all of them in Santa Cruz County.

The Count of Santa Cruz on Tuesday established a damage assessment map that shows where structures have been destroyed. According to that map, the majority of destroyed and damaged structures are in the area near Bonny Doon and Boulder Creek.

Cal Fire expects the number of destroyed structures to increase.

There are still 24,000 structures that are still threatened.

The fires are continue to be 19% contained.

Update (8pm, Aug. 25)

The CZU August Lightning Complex Fires have now consumed 79,640 acres and destroyed 443 structures, nearly all of them in Santa Cruz County. 

Firefighters now have the fire 19% contained, Cal Fire Division Chief Johnathan Cox told reporters Tuesday night. About 77,000 people remain evacuated.

An estimated 136,000 people statewide have been evacuated from their homes due to several fires burning throughout California, which have chewed through 1.25 million acres, Cox said.

Law enforcement officials said that residents largely kept out of the evacuated zones, which they said allowed firefighters to better do their jobs.

Three people were cited for being in restricted areas, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Chris Clark said.

Update (3:30pm, Aug. 25)

Todd Guild: The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in the county due to the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire, which has charred a 78,000-acre swath of wooded, mountainous land in the north part of the county since it began on Aug. 16.

County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios, who also serves as the director of the county’s Office of Emergency Services, made the emergency declaration on Aug. 19, but it required approval from the supervisors.

The declaration allows the county to receive California Disaster Assistance Act revenue and other federal disaster relief funding.

Original story from 8am on Aug. 25

SCOTTS VALLEY—The level of containment in the CZU August Lightning Complex fires continues to increase, but so does the number of confirmed destroyed and damaged structures.

Cal Fire officials at a Tuesday morning press conference said the blaze in the Santa Cruz Mountains is now 17% contained and that it had only grown by roughly 200 acres overnight, now totaled at 78,869 acres, or about 123 square miles.

Officials also said the fire has now chewed through 330 structures, 319 of them in Santa Cruz County and the rest in San Mateo County. 

The vast majority of destroyed structures (246) were residences, Cal Fire said.

“That number is only going to increase,” Cal Fire Incident Commander Billy See said.

Cal Fire Operations Section Chief Mark Brunton said that there is no major firefront as of Tuesday morning. Though people might see flames or smoke creeping through areas of the mountains, Brunton said those pose no threat at this time.

“[The fire] is doing exactly what we want it to do,” he said.

Much of the fire that was moving toward Santa Cruz has since been extinguished, and the community of Davenport was secure as of Tuesday morning, Brunton said. There is also no current threat to Felton.

Cal Fire has focused much of its resources in the Boulder Creek region. That includes six water-dropping helicopters that on Monday doused the flames with 200,000 gallons of water, Brunton said.

He said those efforts will continue today, as visibility has improved since the fire has started to smolder.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Chris Clark said his office has picked up three new missing person cases, and that Empire Grade in the Felton area is now “impassable,” underscoring the dangers of returning to the area at this time.

Otherwise, it was a “relatively quiet night,” Clark said. Deputies had 11 calls for service, six of them reports of suspicious people.

“Hopefully it stays that way,” Clark said.

In neighboring Monterey County, firefighters were also making headway against the River and Carmel fires. The latter is now 33% contained and the former is 30% contained. Combined, they have scorched more than 55,000 acres in the Salinas and Carmel valleys.

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Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.


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