Pescadero residents are standing by as rumors of a pending evacuation circulate the South Coast town. At 4 p.m., emergency volunteers said San Mateo County Sheriff's deputies had begun to warn people in and around town to be ready to go at a moment’s notice as it appeared part of a complex of fires to the south might be making an ominous turn.
Some have already begun to come to the newly established evacuation center at Half Moon Bay High School after the Pescadero High School site was closed this afternoon amid warnings the town may soon be evacuated.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 1,000 people in the county had been evacuated from Loma Mar and the surrounding neighborhoods as wildfires encroached. But for many, getting themselves out was just the start.
County Manager Mike Callagy reported today that hundreds of animals, including 26 horses, four mules, four mini horses, 24 goats, 300 turkeys and 100 pigs have been evacuated from the South Coast.
Beth Pielert of the San Mateo County Large Animal Evacuation Group said it was the first time her group had ever been activated in an emergency situation, but that last night’s animal evacuation ran as smoothly as she could have hoped. The group relocated hundreds of animals north to various farms and ranches.
“It kind of blew our minds how successful it was,” Pielert said.
Their 11 trailer teams are now on call to handle tonight’s need, as they receive calls from residents who are beginning to evacuate from Pescadero and La Honda. Pielert said the group is looking for additional licensed HAM radio operators to help with communication where there is no cell service.
The mood at the Pescadero evacuation center was tense but dynamic throughout Wednesday, as a steady flow of residents stopped by for food, water, bathrooms, information and to put their names down on the list for a hotel room Wednesday night.
Midway through the day, rumors that Pescadero and La Honda would have to evacuate began circulating, sending Puente staff in a frenzy to pack up nonessential pieces of the center should they need to relocate. By 3:30 p.m., the order was made and Puente staff began moving northward. A few staff members remained to let residents know the Pescadero site was closed.
Callagy said that the CZU August Lightning Complex fires threatening the South Coast are a result of three major fires converging. The fires started due to lightning on Sunday. Callagy said he is worried additional thunder and lightning forecast for the days ahead might further threaten the area.
“We do believe that this is one of the, if not the biggest wildfire, in over 100 years in the county, and it is growing,” Callagy said. “The weather is not cooperating.”
The San Mateo County fires are still 0 percent contained, and with fires raging across the region, resources are stretched extremely thin. Callagy said that, for the most part, the fires are moving southward. However, some residents who evacuated Whitehouse Canyon saw firsthand — as they were camped out in their cars along Highway 1 — flames that swallowed their neighborhood, moving northward throughout Wednesday morning.
Callagy reported 44 engines, 21 water tenders, seven helicopters, 10 bulldozers, 10 handcrews — for a total of around 600 people — onsite fighting the fire.
“We’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” Callagy said.