Press briefing
San Mateo County Sheriff's detective Rosemerry Blankswade, on the podium, prepares to address the media on Thursday. Clay Lambert / Review

Authorities gave the go-ahead at noon today to repopulate most of the areas in San Mateo County that had been evacuated as the CZU August Lightning Complex fires began to sweep through southern portions of the county nearly two weeks ago.

Residents in the general Pescadero, La Honda and San Gregorio are now 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, 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, 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,” said San Mateo County Sheriff’s Detective Rosemerry Blankswade.

Thousands of South Coast residents have been out of their homes for a week, 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 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.

Evacuations orders remain in place for Loma Mar. Blankswade apologized for some miscommunication over the last 24 hours related to evacuation orders.

And she said 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."

Authorities have confirmed 11 structures damaged or destroyed in San Mateo County. That is a relatively minimal loss when compared to more than 400 structures lost in Santa Cruz County.

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