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Evacuations Ordered As Lightning Complex Fires Grow

Fires are threatening 6,000 structures as of Wednesday morning

Smoke from the Waddell Fire drifts over Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast. PHOTO: DAVE MILLER

UPDATED at 4pm Wednesday, Aug. 19, with additional evacuation info: 

Cal Fire has ordered more than 22,000 residents in several areas of northern Santa Cruz County and south San Mateo County to evacuate as fires have spread throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains, scorching at least 10,000 acres as of Wednesday morning.

The CZU August Lightning Complex, a series of 22 fires burning at various locations near the counties’ shared border, started Sunday morning during an atypical lightning storm.

The fires are threatening 6,000 structures and are 0% contained, Cal Fire said.

Three first responders have suffered minor injuries. Nearly 600 first responders are battling the fires, according to Cal Fire.

The fires are heading in a southeastern direction and spreading down the Santa Cruz Mountains, Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Deputy Chief Jonathan Cox told reporters Wednesday morning.

“The unfortunate turn of events yesterday was the wind,” Cox said. “That’s why we’ve gone so quickly from a small-growing fire in the middle of the remote parts of the county to a fire front that has pushed southward fairly quickly.”

Cal Fire has identified five large fires, including the Waddell and Warenella fires. Combined, those two have ripped through 620 acres in the northern reaches of Santa Cruz County near Highway 1.

Three other fires have charred at least 9,000 acres, causing Cal Fire to order mass evacuations. Cox said several of the fires merged overnight.

Cal Fire said residents of communities adjacent to Bonny Doon and San Lorenzo Valley should also be prepared to evacuate.

Evacuation centers have been set up at Pescadero High School, located at 360 Butano Cutoff Road in Pescadero, and at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, located at 2601 E. Lake Ave. in Watsonville.

Gov. Gavin Newsom late Tuesday declared a statewide emergency as several fires have arisen throughout the state, including a trio in Monterey County.

Current Santa Cruz County evacuation orders:

  • Waterman Gap Loop
  • Upper Highway 236
  • Boulder Creek Golf Course
  • Heartwood Hill Lodge Road
  • The community of Little Basin
  • Upper China Grade
  • Lodge Road
  • The community of Kings Highway
  • Lower Jamison Creek
  • Gallion Heights
  • Fallen Leaf neighborhood
  • Foxglove Lane
  • Saratoga Toll Road
  • San Lorenzo Park
  • Riverside Grove-Community of Telih Drive
  • Wildwood Road
  • Everyone on Empire Grade Road, from Felton Empire north
  • All of Pine Flat Road
  • All of Ice Cream Grade
  • Bonny Doon Road, between Pine Flat Road, Martin Road and all side streets
  • Bonny Doon south of Ice Cream Grade, to include Pine Flat Road South
  • Evacuation warnings:
    • Areas west of Highway 9 to Empire Grade 
    • South from Bear Creek Road to Felton, including Ben Lomond 

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.

Follow the Cal Fire’s San Mateo-Santa Cruz unit or follow the hashtag #CZUAugustLightningComplex on Twitter for breaking info.


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

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