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December 7, 2023

CZU Complex fires have destroyed more than 300 structures; now 17% contained

SCOTTS VALLEY—The level of containment in the CZU August Lightning Complex fires continues to increase, but so does the number of confirmed destroyed and damaged structures.

Cal Fire officials at a Tuesday morning press conference said the blaze in the Santa Cruz Mountains is now 17% contained and that it had only grown by roughly 200 acres overnight, now totaled at 78,869 acres, or about 76 square miles.

Officials also said the fire has now chewed through 330 structures, 319 of them in Santa Cruz County and the rest in San Mateo County. 

The vast majority of destroyed structures (246) were residences, Cal Fire said.

“That number is only going to increase,” Cal Fire Incident Commander Billy See said.

Cal Fire Operations Section Chief Mark Brunton said that there is no major firefront as of Tuesday morning. Though people might see flames or smoke creeping through areas of the mountains, Brunton said those pose no threat at this time.

“[The fire] is doing exactly what we want it to do,” he said.

Much of the fire that was moving toward Santa Cruz has since been extinguished, and the community of Davenport was secure as of Tuesday morning, Brunton said. There is also no current threat to Felton.

Cal Fire has focused much of its resources in the Boulder Creek region. That includes six water-dropping helicopters that on Monday doused the flames with 200,000 gallons of water, Brunton said.

He said those efforts will continue today, as visibility has improved since the fire has started to smolder.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Chris Clark said his office has picked up three new missing person cases, and that Empire Grade in the Felton area is now “impassable,” underscoring the dangers of returning to the area at this time.

Otherwise, it was a “relatively quiet night” Clark said. Deputies had 11 calls for service, six of them reports of suspicious people.

“Hopefully it stays that way,” Clark said.

In neighboring Monterey County, firefighters were also making headway against the River and Carmel fires. The latter is now 33% contained and the former is 30% contained. Combined, they scorched more than 55,000 acres in the Salinas and Carmel valleys.

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.

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