CZU Lightning Complex fires grow to 40,000 acres

in Education/Featured

Lightning-caused wildfires in southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Cruz County had grown to 40,000 acres, destroyed at least 20 structures and remained zero percent contained as of Thursday morning,  according to Cal Fire. About 8,600 structures are actively threatened by the fires, known as the CZU August Lightning Complex fires.

Over 20,000 people have been evacuated from areas threatened by the fires, officials said. In San Mateo County, about 320 homes and over 1,100 residents have been evacuated as fire continues to threaten the communities of La Honda and Pescadero. An evacuation center has been moved from Pescadero High School to Half Moon Bay High School.

The fires, which began over the weekend, were active throughout Wednesday and “overnight it became even more active,” Cal Fire Operations Section Chief Mark Brunton said. “We had significant burning conditions that are unprecedented and unseen by veteran firefighters.”

The rapid approach of fire prompted a near last-minute evacuation of the community of Davenport on the Santa Cruz County coast, Brunton said. People were evacuated safely from the community and fire suppression efforts continued Thursday morning.  Another significant overnight event was the fire moved west across Empire Grade Road, threatening structures on the eastern side and continuing its threat on the communities of Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond.

There are no known injuries to civilians due to the CZU August Lightning Complex fires. A number of first responders have suffered minor injuries,  such as bee stings and minor lacerations, but no major injuries.

The blazes are among 367 known wildfires statewide that broke out following a 72-hour period of nearly 11,000 lightning strikes amid hot and dry conditions.

The large number of fires means an under-resourced battle in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, where the focus is on safe evacuations, officials said.

Visit the regional evacuations portal for more information. Visit Cal Fire’s incident map for more information on the status of wildfires throughout the state.

Photo credit: San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office