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Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds Sets Up Shelter for Fire Evacuees

Shelters set up at Pescadero High School, Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds

An evacuated family settles into a tent inside the Crosetti Building at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. PHOTO: JOHANNA MILLER

Cal Fire has ordered more than 22,000 residents in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties to evacuate as the CZU August Lightning Complex fires spread through the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Temporary shelters have been set up across the region to house evacuees. This includes one at Pescadero High School, one at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and one at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville.

Fairgrounds CEO Dave Kegebin said he, staff and volunteers have been hard at work setting up the shelter, which as of Wednesday morning had checked in about 75 people. Tents and single cots are currently situated in Crosetti Hall and the Harvest Building, and the Fine Arts Building is ready for overflow. Livestock areas were also being prepared to house displaced animals.

“It’s been a mad scramble,” Kegebin said. “Since we weren’t having the fair this year, many of our buildings were full of equipment … we had to clear everything out and clean up pretty quickly.”

Fair Board Director Lori Estrada said that tents had already been set up in the Crocetti building as possible emergency shelter during the Covid-19 pandemic. Estrada recalled that it had been about 11 years since the fairgrounds had been used as a shelter—and now it was happening twice in six months.

“Nothing about this was planned, but that’s how life is,” she said. “We just do what we can.”

Boulder Creek resident Melissa Leon said she was able to get herself, her four dogs and two cats, and a car load of supplies out safely. But her house was a lost cause.

“I might not be able to go back until September … to take photos and all that,” she said. “Then will come dealing with insurance companies.”

Leon said she was grateful for the emergency shelter. Friends had been offering to help, but the shelter offers a safe environment with plenty of supplies and assistance. 

“This is really the best place to be,” she said. “It has the funding to help us for the long term.”

Another evacuee, who asked not to be named, said he had left home at about 5am. So far, the fires have not reached the duplex he lives in with his girlfriend, and he is confident they are far enough away from the fire line.

“But it’s always good to be careful,” he said. “We’re playing it safe.”


Fire resources:

  • Visit fire.ca.gov/incidents/2020/8/17/czu-august-lightning-complex for more information on evacuation orders, evacuation warnings, evacuation centers and road closures.
  • For those unable to secure other accommodations, the following shelters have been set up:
    • Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz
    • Santa Cruz Fairgrounds, 2601 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville
    • Pescadero High School, 360 Butano Cutoff Road, Pescadero
  • Pets are welcome at evacuation sites, but it is requested that they be under owner’s control. Bring a pet carrier if you can.
  • Shelter staff will assist people with special needs. Behavioral health specialists will be on site for support.
  • For information on accommodations for evacuees, call the Red Cross at 1-866-272-2237.
  • For assistance evacuating animals, call 831-471-1182.
  • Find the current evacuation map at smco.community.zonehaven.com.
  • To list yourself safe go to redcross.org/safeandwell.
  • The county is taking contributions of large, family-sized tents at the Emeline Warehouse, 1082 Emeline in Santa Cruz (rear of the property behind 1080 Emeline Health Clinic).
  • Sign up for Cal Fire email updates at tinyurl.com/czulightning. The Cal Fire public information line for the fire incident is 831-335-6717.
  • Follow the Cal Fire’s San Mateo-Santa Cruz unit or follow the hashtag #CZUAugustLightningComplex on Twitter for breaking info.
  • The Santa Cruz County Human Services benefits hotline is 1-888-421-8080 (toll free). Residents impacted by the fire who are enrolled in benefits programs may be eligible for replacement benefits.
  • For the latest traffic advisories or restrictions visit cruz511.org.
  • Find local air quality information at air.mbard.org.

Follow continuing in-depth fire coverage here and in our live blog.

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