Authorities gave the go-ahead at noon on Thursday to repopulate most of the areas in San Mateo County that had been evacuated when the CZU August Lightning Complex fire began to sweep through southern portions of the county nearly two weeks ago.
Residents in most of the Pescadero, La Honda and San Gregorio areas were free to return to their homes and businesses. Evacuation orders remain in place near Loma Mar and other pockets of the South Coast where there is still active fire.
Specifically, San Mateo County Sheriff’s Detective Rosemerry Blankswade said Bean Hollow State Beach area, Pescadero Beach area, Pescadero Creek County Park area, San Gregorio area, La Honda area, Langley Hill and the Red Barn area, Russian Ridge Open Space area, Skylonda, Portola Redwoods State Park, Portola Heights and the Middleton tract are now open. A web address, smcgov.org/smc-wildfire-recovery has been set up to allow residents to check to see whether their address is clear.
“Many of our friends and families have longed for good news regarding these fires, and that moment has arrived,” she said.
Thousands of South Coast residents have been out of their homes, having been ordered to evacuate on Aug. 20. Countless others refused to do so and have been loathe to leave because they would not have been allowed back in by law enforcement officers working roadblocks.
Some of those roadblocks are now lifted. Road closures at highways 84, 1 and 35 that had been in place are now gone, Blankswade said. There are still some existing roadblocks, including at Highway 1 and Gazos Creek Road, on Cloverdale Road at Butano Cut-off, at Pescadero Creek Road at Butano Cut-off and Pescadero Creek Road at Burns Valley Road, which are closer to the continuing fire.
Blankswade said in a news conference at incident command in Scotts Valley on Thursday afternoon that there are more deputies on the South Coast to make sure there are no problems related to vacant properties. While there have been sporadic reports of theft and looting in Santa Cruz County associated with the evacuations, there have been no such reports in San Mateo County, she said. There have been no thefts nor any reports of suspicious people in the area over the last week.
Blankswade apologized for some miscommunication related to evacuation orders in the hours before the official announcement. As late as Monday morning there was still some discrepancy between evacuation orders on CalFire press releases and what Blankswade said on Thursday. San Mateo County officials said the Russian Ridge Open Space area — known to emergency officials as Zone EO27 — was listed as clear on Thursday. However, it continued to appear in a CalFire press release showing active evacuation zones.
Blankswade said on Thursday that those still in evacuation zones could be out of their homes for a while.
"It's hard to assess," she said. "It's probably going to be a long haul."