'It's stressful': Wildfire evacuees in Santa Cruz County anxiously wait to return home
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) - Tuesday marks one week since evacuation centers opened in Santa Cruz County. The action came in response to the CZU Lightning Complex fires.
For evacuees, “home” is the universal destination they seek, but one that is cloaked in questions and uncertainty.
“Is it ever going to end? You know, I wanna go home, if there’s a house standing,” said Boulder Creek evacuee Barbara Andrews.
She echoes sentiments shared by many of the people chased from their homes by the CZU mega-fire. Santa Cruz County has set up nearly a dozen evacuation families, their pets, and their animals.
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“Since that first night we’ve expanded considerably. We’ve got a lot of good infrastructure going on at this point,” said Christian Quaglia, manager for the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds evacuation site.
The difficult transition is becoming more untenable as days away from home have now stretched to one week.
“It’s stressful. We’re staying at an extended stay hotel with six other dogs and cats. We come down here to see Monterey,” said Rick & Joyce Gomez, as they stood in front of a horse stall at the county fairgrounds evacuation site.
“Monterey” is the couple’s Arabian horse, rescued from their home in Lompico, a small town hear Felton, CA. The gelding was bred for endurance but now endures unfamiliar settings as his owners brace for the worst.
“Trying to stay calm and start making a plan in case there’s a big change. That’s the hard one. Making a future plan and the what-ifs,” the couple said.
Tuesday, continued favorable weather aided firefighters in their battle with the CZU August Lightning Fire Complex. Containment is now up to 17%. And air quality is improving amid cooler temperatures and higher humidity.
Interactive map: See where wildfires are burning across the Bay Area
“It’s part of our overall strategy. It poses no threat. With our wind patterns, our weather pattern, it’s [the fire] doing exactly what we want it to do. and again, it’s an alternative strategy we’re utilizing,” said Cal Fire Section Chief Mark Brunton.
For those affected by the flames, a strategy of waiting and hoping, as another day becomes another night away from the one place these people can’t go -- home.
“County fire and county sheriffs are doing the best they can. And they don’t need civilians going home when they’re not allowed to,” said evacuee Patrick Dwire.
The evacuation orders still stand, and there are sheriff’s deputies out making sure people do not re-enter their neighborhoods. The dozen evacuation centers in this county will be open for the foreseeable future.
Donations of things such as blankets and sleeping bags and sanitizer are being accepted at the Santa Cruz County warehouse.