BOULDER CREEK (KPIX) — More than 77,000 residents in the Santa Cruz Mountains had been evacuated Friday evening as the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire grew to 57,000 acres.

“It’s heartbreaking but nothing’s worth our lives,” said evacuee Julia Sanchez.

But CalFire said during a press conference that some residents refused to leave.

Damien Mason evacuated with his family on Thursday but decided to return by himself later that night to water around his Felton home.

“We have to, this is our properties, we have to protect,” said Mason.

Angus MacMillan, who lives just up the street from Mason, had also evacuated with his family but returned home.

“We’d heard that Cal Fire was understaffed,” said MacMillan. “I decided to come back and at least see if I could slow it down. I’ve got a fire hose and a pump so maybe I can keep some of the embers off and buy us some time.”

Up the hill from MacMillan, on Empire Grade, some homes were leveled by the lightning-sparked fire.

MacMillan watered his property and admitted he had no idea how close the fire was burning.

“It is a home and it’s where I’ve raised all three of my kids and my wife and I have spent our entire marriage here,” said MacMillan. “We’ve spent summers doing remodels and building fences and planting grapes and roses. It is just a material item but there’s a lot of memories attached to it that you don’t want to lose.”

Firefighters were stretched thin across the state because of multiple wildland fires. But another challenge in fighting the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire is poor visibility, which is hampering aircraft operations.

Firefighters staged in downtown Boulder Creek where the fire crept closer to the area. Cal Fire said they were focused on efforts to protect Highway 9 where many businesses and homes are located.

As of Friday, the fire was 2 percent contained. That was considered progress considering it had been at zero containment since the fire began on Monday evening.

“Everything materialistic-wise, my clothes, where we’re living, it could be replaced,” said Sanchez. “It will take time but we’re all safe and that’s what matters.”

LIGHTNING WILDFIRES

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