UPDATE: Evacuations Now Ordered in Santa Clara County as Lightning Complex Fires Grow

UPDATE, 3pm Aug. 19: Cal Fire is now ordering Santa Clara County residents to evacuate from the areas east of Ed Levin County Park as well as Felter and Sierra Roads, Toyon Avenue and North Hamilton to Three Springs roads.

An evacuation warning was also issued for San Jose’s East Side. (For more information on teh difference between an order and a warning, click here.)

Throughout California, we are embarking on another despair: Wildfires. With more than 7 counties currently engulfed in...

Posted by Magdalena Carrasco on Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The weekend’s extraordinary storms brought upward of 10,800 lightning strikes in Northern California that sparked 367 fires, many of which have morphed into raging infernos that continue burning through today.

Smoke from roaring fires amid a historic heat wave and parched air have coalesced into an apocalyptic haze blanketing Santa Clara Valley and beyond.

With so many fires burning throughout the upper half of the state, Cal Fire opted to naming clusters of blazes instead of christening each one. The resulting monikers: CZU in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, SCU in Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Alameda counties and the LNU lightning complex in Sonoma.

By Wednesday morning, Cal Fire ordered more than 22,000 residents in Santa Cruz and south San Mateo counties to evacuate as fires spread throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains, scorching at least 10,000 acres.

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 percent 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.

Smoke from the Waddell Fire drifts over Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast. (Photo by Dave Miller)

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.

In Santa Clara County, the air is thick with smoke, prompting public health officials to urge physically vulnerable people to stay indoors as much as possible.

A map of the evacuation area. (Source: Cal Fire)

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
  • Residents are being asked to evacuate south on Highway 236 toward Boulder Creek, then Highway 9 to Santa Cruz.

Click here 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.

Jennifer Wadsworth also contributed to this report. 

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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