The CZU August Lightning Complex wildfires in southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Cruz County had grown to 57,000 acres, and was 2 percent contained as of Friday evening, as Cal Fire officials reported that more favorable weather has allowed for “slight” progress on the damaging blazes.
Still, the fires prompted by lightning strikes and hot temperatures are threatening over 24,000 structures and over 64,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. Damage inspectors report that 97 structures have been destroyed, and officials say the number will get into the triple digits as they search fire-ravaged areas. Just over 1,150 personnel were working to battle the fires and protect structures, officials said.
In Santa Cruz, the fire continued to progress throughout the San Lorenzo Valley and into the Highway 9 corridor, Cal Fire Operations Section Chief Mark Brunton said. The fires on the coast and in San Mateo County were tempered a bit by more favorable weather conditions, and that should continue overnight with reduced winds, Brunton said. But that will “only slightly” mitigate the situation, he added.
Meanwhile, sheriff’s deputies in both counties are urging residents in evacuation zones to evacuate and not return to their homes unnecessarily, citing rescues that took critical fire personnel away from the fire battle. Meanwhile, dozens of sheriff’s are patrolling evacuated areas for potential looters.
In San Mateo County, evacuation centers have been set up at Half Moon Bay High and at the San Mateo County Event Center.
The CZU August Lightning Complex fires were among 367 known wildfires statewide that broke out following a 72-hour period of nearly 11,000 lightning strikes amid hot and dry conditions.
Headline image: CZU Crew 1 conducting emergency evacuations at CZU August Lightning Complex fires/Credit: Cal Fire CZU