CZU Complex wildfires at 81,333 acres, 21 percent containment

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The CZU August Lightning Complex wildfires in southern San Mateo County and northern Santa Cruz County was at 81,333 acres and 21 percent containment as of Wednesday morning, Cal Fire officials said.

Favorable weather has allowed firefighters to make progress on the blazes, caused by a flurry of statewide lightning strikes last week, to the point that some areas are being prepped to be repopulated, meaning crews are going in to clear roadways, restore utilities and assess damages.

Still, over 23,000 structures remain under threat by the ongoing fires, and 646 are confirmed destroyed, 11 of them in San Mateo County and the rest in Santa Cruz County, officials said. The number of firefighters battling the blaze continued to grow and is now at 1,982, more than double the number of personnel from a week ago, which significantly improves their ability to increase containment efforts.

Fire officials are confident the blazes will not continue their march into regions they were previously concerned about, including Santa Clara County, UC Santa Cruz and Felton, due in part to construction of protective fire control lines.

“Over the course of next 48 hours, we are going to be looking at repopulating different areas, in and around the fires,” Cal Fire incident commander Billy See said. “It needs to be a coordinated and methodical process. We need to ensure that we have electricity, we need to ensure the roadways are safe to travel, we need to make sure that we have corridors for our firefighters to travel in and out of the fire, we need to make sure we have water in place. That’s a coordinated effort that takes a lot of different agencies to ensure this occurs.”

The community of Davenport, for example, is one area where PG&E is already present trying to reestablish electricity in the community.

“The fire perimeter, each day, we are gaining confidence as we increase resources on this incident,” See said. “Today, we’re going to have over 1,000 firefighters out on that line working diligently to gain perimeter control. Each day we increase our containment effort on this incident, and we will continue to do that until we have it 100 percent contained and we’ve been able to lift the majority of evacuation orders and warnings in this area.”

The CZU August Lightning Complex fires were among hundreds of wildfires that began last week throughout the state following 11,000 lightning strikes over a 72-hour period. The lightning strikes were caused by a tropical storm in the Pacific. Firefighting resources have been stretched thin as a result of the large number of wildfires.

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.

Headline image of Cal Fire Operations Section Chief Mark Brunton, YouTube