SCOTTS VALLEY (CBS SF) — Nearly a month after they roared to life during an unprecedented dry lightning storm, three major wildfire complexes that have consumed more than 846,000 acres in the San Francisco Bay Area, destroyed at least 2,723 homes and commercial buildings and claimed six lives neared full containment on Tuesday.
The once small army of nearly 5,000 firefighters battling the flames has dwindled as crews have been released to go home or sent to assist at other wildfires during this historic fire season.
Cal Fire officials said the most challenging of the major Bay Area blazes — the CZU Lightning Complex, burning in the timber-rich Santa Cruz Mountains — was at 86,509 acres and 91 percent contained by Tuesday morning.
Only five evacuation orders remained in effect. In Santa Mateo County there were Butano Community area (Zone: SMC-E098B); Butano State Park including Barranca Knolls Community (Zone: SMC-E019) and Western areas of San Mateo County (SMC-E38C).
Meanwhile in Santa Cruz County they were — Chalk Mountain (Zone: CRZ-E001), Waddel Creek, Swanton, Last Chance Road and Molina Creek (Zones: CRZ-E002B, CRZ-E003B, CRZ-E010C).
“There is minimal fire over the majority of the fire area,” officials said in a Tuesday morning release. “Crews continue to mop up and
control hot spots throughout the fire area in an effort to support repopulation efforts. Hazards, like compromised trees still exist in the area.”
A final damage assessment of the fire zone has been completed with 925 homes and 171 commercial having been destroyed — most of those in Santa Cruz County.
In nearby Santa Clara County, the SCU Lightning Complex — the state’s third largest wildfire outbreak in history at 396,624 acres — was at 98 percent.
In news release Monday night Cal Fire officials said: “The fire is now in patrol status with no fire activity noted for over a week. Crews continue to check the perimeter for fire daily.”
Full containment was predicted to be achieved by Wednesday.
Meanwhile in Wine Country, the LNU Lightning Complex fire — the state’s fourth largest wildfire outbreak in history — was 363,220 acres and 97 percent contained.
Of the three major fires within in the complex, the Hennessey Fire was at 305,659 acres with 98 percent containment; the Walbridge Fire was at 55,209 acres with 97 percent containment and the Meyers Fire at 2,360 acres and 100 percent contained.
The complex has also been the Bay Area’s deadliest blaze claiming five lives — three in Napa County and two in Solano County. Hundreds of homes were destroyed in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties as the massive wildfire ripped through the region.
As of Tuesday, all evacuation orders had been lifted and thousands have returned to their homes. The number of firefighters on the lines have dropped from over 2,000 to just 504.