By Tony Nuñez
Five major fire events throughout the Central Coast and northern California have destroyed at least 1,509 structures, various Cal Fire units announced Sunday morning.
The SCU Lightning Complex, the River Fire, the Carmel Fire, the CZU Lightning Complex and the LNU Lightning Complex have chewed through 892,313 acres across 15 counties. There have been 14 injuries and six deaths. The fires have also forced tens of thousands of residents to evacuate their homes over the last two weeks.
By Saturday, most evacuation orders and warnings had been lifted in eastern Santa Clara County—an area near the western border of the SCU Complex fire. On Aug. 28, CalFire lifted an evacuation warning zone in east Morgan Hill and Gilroy, including the Morgan Hill neighborhoods of Jackson Oaks, Thomas Grade and Holiday Lake Estates.
The air in Morgan Hill and other parts of South Valley remained filled with smoke as CalFire crews have been setting controlled burns since last week on the western border of the SCU Complex main blaze. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District reported the air quality in Morgan Hill at about 107, which is in the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category.
But the heart of the 377,471-acre SCU Complex fire event centered near a mesh point of Santa Clara, Alameda, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties remained off-limits. The complex is the second-largest fire event ever recorded in the state’s history—it has swapped positions with the ongoing LNU Lightning Complex burning in Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Yolo and Lake counties over the last week—and has scorched mostly uninhabited land.
That has not been the case with the CZU Lightning Complex. That fire has charred 84,640 acres as of Sunday morning and flattened 1,177 structures—nearly all of them in Santa Cruz County. That includes at least 726 residences, the majority of them in and around the Santa Cruz Mountain towns of Boulder Creek and Bonny Doon. The county of Santa Cruz created an interactive damage assessment map to track the devastation.
Those numbers, which Cal Fire has said will continue to increase as it pushes further into the fire zone, make it the ninth-most destructive fire ever recorded in the state. The LNU fire is 10th.
Santa Cruz County on Saturday opened the Kaiser Permanente Arena—the home of the Golden State Warriors’ development-league affiliate—as a resource center where county residents impacted by the fire can find assistance from federal, state and local agencies and various nonprofits. That center at 140 Front St. in Santa Cruz is open daily from 11am to 7pm.
Residents and business owners impacted by any California wildfire are also urged to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration to receive federal disaster assistance.
Some residents of Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties were also allowed to repopulate in recent days. CZU has lifted fire evacuation orders for the UC Santa Cruz campus, the city of Scotts Valley, Lompico, Zayante and eastern portions of the San Lorenzo Valley. Many of the areas of San Mateo County affected by the fire evacuations have also been allowed to repopulate.
Gov. Gavin Newsom in a Friday afternoon press conference said there were some 14,600 firefighters battling fires across the state.
· 377,471 acres
· 50% contained
· 53 structures destroyed
· 2,025 personnel
· 375,209 acres
· 56% contained
· 1,209 structures destroyed
· 2,819 personnel
· 84,640 acres
· 35% contained
· 1,177 structures destroyed
· 2,142 personnel
· 48,732 acres
· 76% contained
· 30 structures destroyed
· 954 personnel
· 6,767 acres
· 81% contained
· 73 structures destroyed· 274 personnel