'It could be weeks' before evacuated Santa Cruz and San Mateo county residents get to return home

A total of 64,000 residents, about twice the size of the city of Burlingame, have been evacuated because of the raging wildfires in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties, where 57,000 acres had been scorched as of Friday evening. 

As for when residents can return home?

"I don't want to give false hope," said Santa Cruz County Chief Deputy Chris Clark. "It could, potentially, be weeks." 

Cal Fire officials gave the latest update on the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire Friday evening, saying it was 2% contained and had noted the blaze's "historic" nature. 

"We have fires burning in areas that may have never burned at all," Cal Fire's Unit Chief Ian Larkin said. 

Interactive map: See where all the fires are raging in California 

WATSONVILLE, CA - AUGUST 19: Evacuee Susan Powell of Boulder Creek spends time with her husband, Donald, in their car at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds on Aug. 19, 2020, in Watsonville, Calif. The Powells are staying in their car during the day to

There were evacuation orders in both counties, including Pescadero, San Gregorio, La Honda, Skylonda, Boulder Creek, Felton, Scotts Valley and the University of California Santa Cruz campus. As many as 97 structures have burned, including some building's at California's oldest park, Big Basin.

But officials believe that number will soar into the triple digits as they can get a better assessment of what was damaged and destroyed. 

Several Santa Cruz Mountain towns have been reduced to ghost towns. 

Friday morning, the last few residents in Scotts Valley were preparing to leave. Officials said all 12,000 residents had evacuated by Friday evening. 

“It’s just surreal. There’s no words to describe it. Even being here for the past however many days this has been going on, every day you just can’t believe this is happening,” said Chris Breeden, as she loaded here SUV for a trip to her Summer cabin at Lake Shasta.

“It’s really sad to see what's happening,” said Dorn Claussen of Scotts Valley. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You are just a victim here.”

Claussen was watering down his house. Residents there were told to get out of town. Earlier in the day, sheriff deputies went door to door evacuating people in Felton and Zayante.

“It looks like I’m the last person here but I’m out,” said Dave Faulkner of Zayante. “I was going to wait until the fire jumped Highway 9 but evacuation orders are in.”

Mugs Hammer of Boulder Creek also stayed back to "try and save the houses around me. Because if they catch on fire, the chances of my house catching on fire much more likely."

But firefighters and law enforcement are imploring that people do not stay back to try to save their own homes.  

“When people do stay behind, and do try to take measures into their own hands with fire suppression measures, it creates a bigger issue for our first responders,” said Chief Mark Brunton of Cal Fire.

Overnight, they had to pull some of their resources away from fighting the fire to rescue three people.

If people want to go back to try and recover any animals or pets they may have left behind, they can contact animal control for help with that. 

On Friday, police and sheriff’s deputies swept through neighborhoods and schools, reminding procrastinators it’s time to go.

“I just wanted to make sure. I saw your garage open…so you guys are planning on evacuating?” asked one Scotts Valley police officer as he patrolled a neighborhood near Scotts Valley High School.

“Yep that’s what I was doing…I’m on my way,” replied an unidentified resident. Added evacuee Ryan Hoye, “When you evacuate, it’s hard to decide what you wanna take.”

Many are bracing for weeks away from their homes and whether or not they will have a home to return to. 

At Friday evening's news conference Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said five people were arrested for looting in the area of Fall Creek Drive. The sheriff's office additionally said there are two missing persons cases down from 19 reported earlier. 

Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said that currently, 12,000 firefighters are battling nearly two dozen major fires and complexes across California.

Since the lightning siege started on Saturday, there have been nearly 12,000 lightning strikes, sparking more than 560 new wildfires.

Those fires have burned over 771,00 acres in total.

Berlant said fire danger remains elevated this weekend as there still may be more lightning expected Sunday through Tuesday, gusty winds in the Eastern Sierra and very hot temperatures. 

BOULDER CREEK - AUGUST 20: The Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters & Visitor Center is burned to the ground during a blaze in Boulder Creek, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. (Photo by Randy Vazquez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via G


No Evacuation Warnings currently in place


Communities of Loma Mar and Dearborn Park Area (Zone SMC E018)

Pescadero Creek County Park Area (Zone SMC E024)

Butano Community Area (Zone SMC E098)

Butano State Park Area including Barranca Knolls Community (Zone SMC E019)

Butano Creek Drainage (Zone SMC E055)

South Skyline Blvd. Area near Highway 9 (SMC E049)

Russian Ridge Open Space Reserve Area (Zone SMC E027)

Middleton Tract Area (Zone SMC E044)

Portola Redwoods State Park and the Portola Heights Community Area (Zone SMC E048)

Pescadero Beach Area (Zone SMC E075)

Bean Hollow Area (Zone SMC E042)

Pescadero Area (Zone SMC E043)

San Gregorio Area (Zone SMC E022)

La Honda Area (Zone SMC E028)

Red Barn Area (Zone SMC E010)

Russian Bridge Open Space Area (Zone SMC E027)

Skylonda Area (Zone SMC E012)

Langley Hill Area ( Zone SMC E010)

Paradise Park (Zones: CRZ 63, CRZ 64)

University of California Santa Cruz, campus only (Zone: SCZ 4)


No Evacuation Warnings currently in place


Waterman Gap Loop, Upper HWY 236, Boulder Creek Golf Course, Heartwood Hill, Lodge Road, Community of Little Basin, Lower China Grade, Upper China Grade, Community of Kings Hwy, Lower Jamison Creek, Gallion Heights, Fallen Leaf Neighborhood, Foxglove Lane (Zones CRZ10, CRZ13, BOU36, BOU20, BOU30, BOU31, BOU36, BOU37, BOU21)

Saratoga Toll Road, San Lorenzo Park, Riverside Grove-Community of Teilh Drive, Wildwood Road (BOU38, BOU39, BOU40, BOU41, BOU42, BOU43)

Everyone on Empire Grade Road, from Felton Empire north, all of Pine Flat Road, all of Ice Cream Grade, Bonny Doon Road, in between Pine Flat Road, Martin Road, and all associated side streets are under an evacuation order. (CRZ1, CRZ2, CRZ3, CRZ4, CRZ5, CRZ10, CRZ11, CRZ12, CRZ13, CRZ14, CRZ15)

Bonny Doon south of Ice Cream Grade, to include Pine Flat Road South is now under an evacuation order. (CRZ7, CRZ8)

Areas of Alba Road, Hubbard Gulch and Fanning Grade. (BEN 1)

All areas of Ben Lomond (Zones BEN 2 – BEN 5)

The area of Lompico (Zones ZAY 11, ZAY 12)

All areas adjacent to the Bonny Doon and San Lorenzo Valley should be prepared to evacuate if necessary. (CRZ7, CRZ8)

Areas West of Highway 9 to Empire Grade

South from Bear Creek Road to Felton, this includes Ben Lomond


San Mateo County

Half Moon Bay High School, 1 Lewis Foster Drive, Half Moon Bay

Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County Fairground, 2601 E. Lake Avenue in Watsonville

Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church Street, Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Seventh Day Adventist Camp Grounds, 1931 Soquel San Jose Rd


Road closures are fluid and being coordinated with evolving evacuation warnings and orders.

San Mateo County

Pescadero Creek Road between Alpine and Cloverdale Rd.

Cloverdale Road between Pescadero Creek Road and Gazos Creek.

Alpine Road between Pescadero Creek Road and Skyline

Whitehouse Canyon Road at Highway 1

Portola Heights Road at Skyline

State Route 1 at Rossi Road

State Route 1 at Ano Nuevo

Santa Cruz County

Granite Creek Rd. is closed at southbound state Highway 17.

Closures also include Mt. Hermon Rd. and La Madrona Drive, and Graham Hill Rd. and Lockewood Lane. 

State Route 1 at Shaffer Road

State Route 9 north bound at Alba Road

Empire Grade at Heller Drive

Felton Empire Road at Featherston Way