CZU Complex Fire evacuees deal with more than displacement, COVID-19 concerns limit options

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Thursday, August 27, 2020
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CZU Complex Fire evacuees are dealing more than displacement as they try to find a safe place to stay amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Robert Autrand didn't intend to spend his 65th birthday evacuated from his Boulder Creek home.

He and his family spent the first night at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville and later searched for more comfort in Santa Cruz.

RELATED: Check if your home was damaged by CZU, LNU Complex Fires in Santa Cruz, Napa, Solano, Lake counties

"We couldn't find a vacancy," he told ABC7 News.

For the last week, the Autrands have made a home at the Marriott in Downtown San Jose, along with their dog, Eassy, and a parakeet named Neptune.

"We heard about the rate that they were giving here and that they were pet friendly," Autrand said.

The city of San Jose sits between both the CZU and SCU Lightning Complexes.

VIDEO: Video shows devastation, smoky orange skies from Bay Area wildfires

Wanting to assist, city leaders and partners recently introduced a program called San Jose Cares. More than a dozen hotels in San Jose announced discounted rates for evacuees.

According to a release by the city, the program is "a partnership with local San Jose hotels, coordinated by Team San Jose, to offer reduced rates starting at just $99 a night for evacuees and fire victims."

Team San Jose is the parent company that oversees the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, the San Jose Theaters and Visit San Jose.

By Wednesday, the website listed 16 hotels, with more expected.

VIDEO: Photos show scope of Bay Area wildfires' devastation

"Instead of seeing an opportunity to capitalize on it, they saw an opportunity to lower their rates," Team San Jose's Marketing and Communications Director, Frances Wong told ABC7 News. "To an affordable rate that's lower than normal."

"San Jose firefighters are actually staying in hotel properties in San Jose so that they'll be closer to the fires when they need to be activated," Wong added. "And along with firefighters come fire trucks, and they also need to find a home."

However, even with the discounted rates, Autrand said bills add up.

He, his wife Patricia, his son Ryan, 16, and his daughter Brenda, 14, are all sharing one room at the hotel.

VIDEO: Eerie orange haze, ash blankets Santa Cruz neighborhood near CZU Complex Fire

"With some of the added charges which they have security deposit per night it starts to get real pricey," he said. "But it's all refunded back."

Meantime, Autrand said he's hoping friends will take in his family after check-out on the 2nd.

Looking toward the future, he's learning one problem leads to another. We're still in the middle of a pandemic.

"Being up there, you're a little bit isolated," he said about Boulder Creek. "Being down here, you're not so isolated. So, COVID-19 becomes a factor."

On Wednesday, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office estimated it could be weeks before Boulder Creek residents return.

BAY AREA FIRE UPDATES: Latest on evacuation orders, road closures here

"That's kind of a rough framework of what that repopulation plan looks like," Chief Deputy Chris Clark said. "A rough sort of idea."

However, the Autrands are still unsure about whether they have a home to return to.

"We're hoping that no sparks fell on it and that it's still there," Autrand said. "But we don't know for sure because they won't let us back up."

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