More than two weeks from the start of the CZU August Lightning Complex fire, local government and nonprofits are mobilizing to provide long-term aid to the thousands of South Coast residents who had to evacuate and to the hundreds who are still out of their homes.
The evacuation center established at Half Moon Bay High School closed on Tuesday. It was replaced by a county Local Assistance Center at Pescadero Elementary School. The new center will be open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
San Mateo County Chief Communications Officer Michelle Durand said the center is designed to help residents navigate access to relief, such as applying for financial assistance, housing, debris removal and replacement of any lost items or records. These processes, run through government agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Motor Vehicles, can be arduous and complicated, Durand said.
“It's a huge list,” Durand said. “We really want to have a one-stop shop.”
Now that the evacuation center is closed, Puente de la Costa Sur is operating fully out of its La Honda and Pescadero offices, providing free food, water and supplies to residents in need. Puente Executive Director Rita Mancera said her staff is now shifting into supporting residents on a case-by-case basis — from those who lost precious work hours and income to those who lost everything as renters or owners.
Mancera said she expects needs to be varied, and the longer evacuees are out of their Loma Mar and Butano homes, the more assistance they will need. Mancera said she is working with other core agencies over the hill so evacuees staying near San Mateo can access the same resources there.
But relief for South Coast residents doesn’t stop there. Community members are coming together to support one another where there are gaps in government relief.
Pescadero resident Taylor Allen, who, since the start of the fire, has been shuttling supplies and aid to his neighbors outside and inside of the evacuation line, said he’s not willing to let families who lost their homes leave the community for good.
Allen said he knows just how challenging relief processes through groups like FEMA or the Red Cross can be, so he’s not waiting around.
Instead, Taylor is committed to donating his time and efforts to those who need help clearing out their properties and rebuilding their homes, and he’s helped set up fundraising sites for families who lost everything. Taylor said watching some of the federal land management strategy play out in his own community made him angry that firefighting decisions could come at the cost of South Coast residents.
“People like me are just fed up,” Taylor said. “I absolutely do not want to see a single family give up their home. … It's really a battle to keep my community from falling apart.”