'I watched it burn': CZU Lightning Complex Fire burns more than 67,000 acres, families try to save homes

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KGO) -- Families are desperately trying to save their homes as the CZU Lightning Complex Fire continues to scorch 67,000 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.

According to CAL FIRE, the fire is only 5% contained and there are more than 24,000 structures threatened. Fire crews confirmed Saturday 115 structures, many single-family homes, have been destroyed. Approximately 77,000 residents have been evacuated.

ABC7 spoke to families who were helping fire crews fight the flames.

"We saved a lodge and 20 cabins below," said Mark Hendricks. "Now, we're working on another lodge and another cabin and few houses... one house just burnt down this morning."

Hendricks is trying to save what's left of the Sequoia Retreat Center in Ben Lomond.

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"We were pretty much on our own for awhile," Lomond said. "CALFIRE wasn't up here... we need more help."

CAL FIRE confirmed to ABC7 there have been 19 missing person reports.

Tough questions for families to answer: should I stay or should I go?

"It's hard to make that decision," said evacuee John Tefry. "I just took off and proceeded to watch everything burn."

Tefry is one of many who didn't have anywhere to go. The Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium has been transformed to a shelter now at full capacity with 79 evacuees.

RELATED: How LNU, CZU & SCU Lightning Complex Bay Area fires got their names

"This is everything I own," he said pointing to a packed trailer. "I just took off and proceeded to watch everything burn."

It's a painful feeling that is a reality for tens of thousands across the Bay Area.

"Do you think your home is going to make it?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"I hope so," said Buck Pruitt, an evacuee who packed up his car. "I can only leave it up to God and hope everything is going to be ok."

CAL FIRE told our crews the threat overnight continues to be dry heat, low humidity, and potential dry lightning expected to start Sunday and continue for several days.


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Get the latest updates and videos on the CZU, LNU and SCU Lightning Complex Fires here.
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