HALF MOON BAY (CBS SF) — On a normal Sunday, hundreds of San Francisco Bay Area residents would be flocking to get away from the COVID-19 doldrums and enjoy an afternoon amid the beauty of the ancient redwoods of the sprawling Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

But not this week. Like much of the area around it the raging CZU Lightning Complex blazes have turned dreams and natural wonder into piles of ash and smoldering debris.

Park building have been destroyed, toppled redwoods lay across roadways. The fires, sparked to life by lightning strikes, have driven more than 77,000 local residents from their threatened homes and livelihoods.

For many worry, concern and anxiety had reached such levels they wanted to try to return to the fire zone Saturday just to take a peek and see if their homes were still standing.

“I know so many people had to leave their homes,” Steven Nichols of Pescadero told KPIX 5. “It’s brutal not knowing if you’ll ever see it again.”

The unrelenting inferno tearing through the Santa Cruz Mountains and San Mateo County took down more structures
, now totaling at least 115. Officials expect the number to climb, despite taming parts of the fire.

“It’s moving more static not advancing to the pace it was past few days,” said Mark Brunton of Cal Fire.

Nichols and his wife barely escaped with their dogs and cats Tuesday night.

“I think if we had stayed just a little longer, it wouldn’t have been the same story,” said Andie Nichols.

They couldn’t get past a roadblock on Highway 1 Saturday to check their home near Gazos Creek in Pescadero.

“Somebody went up the following morning after the fire storm, and took a picture and said your house is still standing Steve,” Steve Nichols said.

As of Sunday morning, the complex had grown to more than 71,000 acres with more than 24,000 structures threatened as hundreds more firefighters joined the fight from other states. There was 8 percent containment.

“We’re not trying to put any community on an island or unprotected. We’re doing everything we can as an equal to us,” said Brunton.

“I’m just grateful that we got that warning from the CHP helicopter because If they didn’t show up I think we might’ve been trapped,” Steve Nichols said. “We made it out with our animals and by the grace of God if our house still stands.”

Cal Fire said there were limited air drops because of all the smoke but still some small wins because of better weather conditions Saturday That could change quickly as a red flag warning goes into effect starting at 5 a.m. Sunday.

Cal Fire said National Guard members were in training and would be ready to help the fight in the coming days.

Fire officials had one piece of good news on Saturday, they have been able to establish a containment line along the southern border of the complex outside the UC Santa Cruz campus that had been evacuated last week.

SAN MATEO COUNTY EVACUATIONS

  • 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)

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY EVACUATIONS

  • 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
  • Paradise Park (Zones: CRZ 63, CRZ 64)
  • University of California Santa Cruz, campus only (Zone: SCZ 4)
  • The areas of Zayante Canyon (Zones: ZAY 1 – ZAY 17)
  • Scotts Valley West of State Route 17 (Zones: SCO 1-5, SCO 7, SCO 14-20, SCO 21 – SCO 25)

EVACUATION CENTERS

San Mateo County

Half Moon Bay High School, 1 Lewis Foster Drive, Half Moon Bay (AT CAPACITY)

San Mateo Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Drive

Santa Cruz County

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

Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church Street, Santa Cruz

Seventh Day Adventist Camp Grounds, 1931 Soquel San Jose Rd

Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos CA

Santa Cruz Bible Church, 440 Frederick Street, Santa Cruz

Simpkins Family Swim Center, 919 17th Ave

Twin Lakes Church, 2701 Cabrillo College Drive

Animal Evacuation Centers:

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

Cow Palace, contact the San Mateo County Large Animal Evacuation Group for details.

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