The CZU Lightning Complex fires in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties has forced the emergency evacuation of the UC Santa Cruz campus and displaced over 60,000 residents, and caused damage to the oldest state park in California. Further south, the Dolan Fire is burning in Big Sur, and a Fresno man has been arrested on suspicion of arson.
More evacuations were ordered in the Santa Cruz Mountains and east of Pescadero on the Peninsula on Thursday, as the CZU fire complex expanded to 50,000 acres. The fire has destroyed at least 50 homes and structures as of Friday morning, with damage assessments still underway, and residents of the towns of Boulder Creek, Felton, Scotts Valley, La Honda, and Ben Lomond have all been evacuated.
UC Santa Cruz issued its evacuation order on Thursday, telling everyone to leave the wooded campus, and an evacuation center for students and employees has been set up at Cocoanut Grove at the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz.
#CZULightningComplexFire: video taken yesterday afternoon from #BonnyDoon.— Christine Ni (@christineniSF) August 21, 2020
- 50,000 acres burned
- Tens of thousands of evacuated
- 50 structures destroyed
- 0% containment
[🎥: @MFH831]@nbcbayarea pic.twitter.com/hrmI6hqBq1
The expansive evacuations in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties have caused an estimated 64,000 residents to be displaced, as KSBW reports. Santa Cruz County Chief Deputy Chris Clark told KTVU that he doesn't want to give anyone false hope about how soon these evacuation orders may be lifted — "It could, potentially, be weeks," he said.
The fires also reached Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the oldest state park in California, established in 1902. Experts tell KTVU that they expect the redwood trees themselves to be resilient, but no one yet knows the extent of the fire damage in the 18,000-acre park. The park's historic lodge and headquarters was burned to the ground, as seen in photos on social media, and reportedly the park's Nature Center and other structures have been destroyed as well. All employees of the park were safely evacuated before the fires arrived.
My cousins live in Boulder Creek, CA. My heart is breaking as they've had to evacuate and now sit and wait for news as fire rages through their beloved community. The Big Basin Park HQ is no longer there.... pic.twitter.com/BKliKCXtye— AD Raye (@AdinaRaye) August 20, 2020
Some of the scenes from Big Basin State Park. The parks headquarters and visitors center was burned to the ground during the recent blazes that have ravaged the region. #CZULightningComplexFire #BigBasin @mercnews https://t.co/AjS8nRFSXi pic.twitter.com/uY930A0mDI— Randy Vazquez (@RandyVMedia) August 21, 2020
The Carmel Fire in Carmel Valley, in Monterey County, has reached 4,732 acres as of Friday morning, according to CalFire. The blaze is burning south of Carmel near Cachagua Road and Carmel Valley Road, and it has destroyed 28 structures and damaged two others. It remains zero-percent contained.
To the west, the River Fire has been burning in the Sierra del Salinas mountains since Sunday morning, and it has scorched nearly 40,000 acres as of Friday. It has destroyed 10 structures so far, and is 9-percent contained.
The fire has made for a brutal week for farm workers already working in intense heat in the Salinas Valley, harvesting fruits and vegetables, who have also been breathing in smoke all day long.
This has been a brutal week for many farm workers. As fires continue to burn, they are still out in the fields.— United Farm Workers (@UFWupdates) August 20, 2020
These workers near Salinas, CA are working in grueling conditions today- including dangerous temperatures and poor air quality from the nearby #RiverFire.#WeFeedYou pic.twitter.com/CQktYX0opy
Down in Big Sur, in the Los Padres National Forest, one fire that was not reportedly started from a lightning strike, the Dolan Fire, began on Tuesday. It has grown to 6,780 acres, as the Mercury News reports, and it is not a CalFire incident — it is being fought by Los Padres personnel.
The fire has closed Highway 1 between Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County, cutting off Big Sur from the world once again.
As KPIX reports, 30-year-old Fresno resident Ivan Gomez was arrested on Tuesday in the area of the forest near where the fire began, in the John Little State Natural Reserve. Gomez is being held on suspicion of arson, on a $2 million bond.
Anyone with information regarding Gomez or his connection to the Doland Fire is asked to call detectives at 831-755-3773.
Photo via UC Santa Cruz/Twitter