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February 28, 2024

Firefighters get first ‘jump’ on CZU Complex fires

SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS—Seven days into the battle against the CZU August Lightning Complex fires, Cal Fire officials announced Saturday morning that they were able to get their first “jump” on the growing blaze in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Although the fire overnight grew to 63,000 acres, or roughly 98 square miles, firefighters were able to increase their containment to 5%.

Cal Fire Operations Section Chief Mark Brunton also said firefighters were able to set up a “firebreak” between Highways 1 and 9 just above the UC Santa Cruz campus and the city of Santa Cruz. He called it “a real big win.”

“It’s not bulletproof, it’s not the silver bullet there, but it gives us a really good stronghold, a control point, in which to keep the fire from moving southward into those communities,” Brunton said.

The fires, however, did make runs to the west and southeast toward the communities of Davenport and Boulder Creek/Ben Lomond, respectively. A 5-acre spot fire also started in Felton, but firefighters were able to “jump” on it very quickly.

“Again, it shows the tenacity of this fire,” Brunton said. “That’s a long way from the fire’s edge.”

Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Deputy Chief Jonathan Cox said the number of confirmed destroyed structures stands at 97, but Brunton said that there were additional structures lost overnight. That, he said, was going to continue until further resources arrived to help the 1,157 firefighters battling the blaze.

Firefighters across the state are stretched thin. More than 560 fires have sparked in California, charring more than 771,000 acres—an area the size of Rhode Island. That includes the SCU Complex fires that have burned 230,000-plus acres in neighboring Santa Clara County. Just south in Monterey County, the River and Carmel fires have ripped through nearly 50,000 acres combined.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference Friday that additional resources would soon pour into California from neighboring states. He has also asked for mutual aid from Canada and Australia.

Cal Fire officials back in the Santa Cruz mountains said they received multiple calls for rescue from people who had not yet evacuated, including some false calls for rescue that Brunton said puts first responders in jeopardy. Responding to those calls “takes our plan and throws it out the window,” Brunton said.

“We ask that, unless it’s an actual rescue, please do not call,” he said. “And for those people who are in those areas, we [evacuated] for a reason.”

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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