SCOTTS VALLEY (CBS SF) — The CZU Lightning Complex fires grew to more than 80,000 acres Wednesday in the thick forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains as Cal Fire officials reported ‘significant progress’ in slowing the advance of the flames that have destroyed at least 538 homes and structures in Santa Cruz County.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Deputy Chief Chris Clark also reported that deputies responding to a welfare check discovered the body of a 63-year-old woman inside a home in the mountain community of Felton.

“A friend had last talk to her on Monday night,” Clark said. “She (the friend) called us last night and we went out to her home in Felton and unfortunately found her deceased. We believe it was from natural causes.”

One other person has died since the complex fires began on Monday. The body of 73-year-old Tad Jones was found near his car in the Last Chance community in Davenport earlier this week.


Overnight, Cal Fire said, the fire complex grew to 80,137 acres, was 19 percent contained, still threatened more than 24,000 structures, had forced 77,000 residents from their homes and had destroyed at least 538 homes and buildings — 11 in San Mateo County and 527 in Santa Cruz County.

Santa Cruz County officials have launched a damage map to show what homes and neighborhoods have been damaged by the blaze.

Meanwhile, the number of firefighters battling the complex fires had grown to 1,697 by Wednesday morning.

Cal Fire Local Operations Chief Mark Bruton said firefighters will be focusing their efforts Wednesday in establishing a line near Felton, setting back fires to halt the blaze’s slow advance.

“That will button up the fire above Felton,” he said. “That’s excellent news. It will take a couple days to mop up, take out hot spots and render that safe.”

Overall, Bruton said significant progress has been made on Monday and Tuesday under favorable weather conditions.

“The last couple days we have been able to make significant progress in our firefighting efforts,” he said. “We’ve been able to establish more lines, continue to improve established lines and getting another day closer to extinguishing the fire.”

But he added that firefighters were still battling flames around Bonny Doon, where several homes have been destroyed.

“We are starting to make some progress,” Cal Fire Chief Ian Larkin added. “Although its slow and methodical, it is happening.”

Also aiding the firefighters ground efforts has been an intensified effort from the air. Bruton said 6 helicopters dumped 256,000 gallons of water on fire areas on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Cal Fire Incident Commander Billy See, told reporters that “some evacuation orders will downgraded” as soon as later in the day on Wednesday.

PG&E crews will be spending Wednesday re-energizing power lines into Davenport on the San Mateo County coast.