Firefighters breathed a sigh of relief this morning after the volatile weather they expected failed to materialize over the Santa Cruz Mountains. They say higher humidity has allowed them to make progress on the CZU August Lightning Complex fires despite an ongoing Red Flag Warning.
The fire has now consumed 78,000 acres and is 13 percent contained. In both San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, 231 structures have been destroyed and another 24,300 are at risk this morning.
While there have been some thunder strikes in the region overnight, winds remained relatively calm and the humidity continued to be higher than normal.
“Over the last 48 hours we’ve had a lot of small wins and they are starting to add up to big wins,” said CalFire assistant chief Billy See. “Mother Nature’s helped us quite a bit.”
Operations Chief Mark Brunton said stable fire lines have been established on the north end, protecting the communities of Loma Mar and Pescadero.
“A lot of good work up there,” Brunton said. “We have a really good set of control lines on the north end of the fire.”
The news is even better closer to the coast, where the fire had spread near Highway 1, but been mitigated by the marine layer.
“The fire has actually extinguished itself (in some spots), so that is good,” Brunton said.
The firefight continues to be more intense in areas of the mountains and to the south and east. Authorities issued evacuation warnings for parts of western Santa Clara County for the first time overnight. CalFire Deputy Chief Jonathan Cox said the warnings were issued “out of an abundance of caution.”
San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies had to rescue six people who had returned to restricted area overnight. Sheriff’s Sgt. Sal Zuno said no one was injured as a result, but that the effort took staff resources that could have been used elsewhere. He said he didn’t know if anyone was cited nor exactly where the rescue mission occurred.
There continue to be four missing people in Santa Cruz County, according the Sheriff’s officials there. Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies interviewed 10 suspicious people and made two welfare checks in the fire zone overnight.