Wildfires blazing in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, dubbed the CZU August Lightning Complex fires, have merged and spread to 40,000 acres with 0% containment as of Thursday morning, according to Cal Fire.
Twenty structures have been destroyed, with 8,593 more structures threatened. Two first responders received minor injuries battling the blazes, according to Cal Fire.
"Overnight we saw the fire make significant runs in the Davenport, Ben Lomond and Empire ridge area. Multiple evacuation orders and warnings were issued throughout the course night and we anticipate more in the next 24 to 48 hours," Cal Fire spokesman Dan Olson said in a briefing on Cal Fire's Twitter page.
The spreading flames have forced additional evacuation orders to be placed on all areas of Felton. More than 28,000 people have been evacuated, according to Cal Fire.
In San Mateo County, 320 homes and 1,100 residents had been evacuated as of Thursday morning, Aug. 20.
Almost 600 personnel are using 44 engines, 21 water tenders, 10 dozers and 7 helicopters to respond to the fires. However, fire resources are scarce because of the high number of fires in Northern California. Smoke is also limiting the ability of aircraft operations, according to Cal Fire.
"This fire has potential to have significant growth over the next 48 hours," said Chief Billy See of Cal Fire in the briefing, recorded on Facebook live by ABC7 News. "We're going to be aggressive with our evacuation orders today to get out ahead of this. We have very limited firefighting resources."
"The emergency response capabilities here in California have been pushed to their extents," he said.
The agency is working to get assistance in from outside California, which may take time. In the meantime, See and other officials pleaded with people to follow evacuation orders.
"With this fire, you just don't know how things are going to go," said Chief Deputy Chris Clark of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office.
People will learn if their area is under evacuation several ways, he said. When an order goes out, an alert is sent to every cellphone and landline in the area, he said. People can also go to scr911.org for the latest info or to to sign up for Code RED, an emergency alert application covering the Santa Cruz region.
People who are worried their area may be subject to evacuation orders should prepare by gathering important documents and heirlooms and ensuring their vehicle has plenty of fuel, he said. They should also contact friends and family to find an alternate location to stay where people are willing to accept them into their household as part of their small group or "pod," to minimize their exposure to the coronavirus.
People who don't have friends or family they can stay with should call (866) 272-2237 to find somewhere to stay, Clark said.
Once people facing evacuation orders do leave their homes, they should not plan to go back while the orders are in effect.
There are three evacuation centers open for residents of Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties: Half Moon Bay High School, 1 Lewis Foster Drive, Half Moon Bay; Santa Cruz County Fairground, 2601 E. Lake Avenue in Watsonville; and Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church Street, Santa Cruz. A San Mateo County evacuation center was located in Pescadero but it has been moved to Half Moon Bay High School, according to firefighting agency officials.
In addition, parking lots were closed at several San Mateo County parks, including San Bruno Mountain, Junipero Serra Park, Pillar Point Bluff and Huddart Park as park rangers are assigned to provide firefighting assistance, according to Twitter. Walk-in access to those areas is permitted.
To view the most current evacuation information and see a map of the CZU Lightning Complex, people can visit smco.community.zonehaven.com.