CZU Lightning Complex Fire: Suspected Santa Cruz Co. looters ID'd, surveillance video shows theft

Surveillance video released Sunday shows one of the suspected looters stealing items from a home

Amanda del Castillo Image
Sunday, August 23, 2020
VIDEO: Woman takes object from evacuated home in Santa Cruz Co.
Surveillance video shared by the home owner shows a woman taking a large object from a evacuated home in Santa Cruz County.

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Police have identified five suspected looters in Santa Cruz County, capitalizing on the mandatory evacuations for the CZU Lightning Complex Fires.

The sheriff's office identified the suspects as Jose Gandarilla, Susana Luna, Crystal Araujo, Sara Loretz and Crystle Parstch-Lucchesi. They've been arrested on numerous charges, including looting, grand theft, conspiracy to commit a crime and burglary.

"These five decided to victimize several of our community members who are already hurting."

VIDEO: 5 looters arrested in Santa Cruz County fire zone

Beyond the fire fight, law enforcement officers arrested suspected looters, caught capitalizing on the mandatory evacuations.

"It's terrible and it's disgusting," Chief Deputy Chris Clark with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said. "Today alone, we arrested five people. Five people with two car loads full of stolen property off of Fall Creek Road."

RELATED: UC Santa Cruz on-campus residents threatened with 'criminal offense' for failure to evacuate

Another concern on Friday were the two residents who are unaccounted for. Sheriff's detectives are investigating.

"There are two missing person's cases at this point that we're actively trying to confirm," Clark told reporters.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Track wildfires across San Francisco, other parts of CA

He said, if residents haven't heard from a loved one, first search the Red Cross website to see if they've been reported there. The next step would be to call sheriff's dispatch.

As for the ongoing fire fight, CAL FIRE says more evacuations and road closures can be expected in the days to come.

On Friday afternoon, ABC7 News met the Immel family. They were evacuated from their Boulder Creek homes on Wednesday morning, only to return to rubble.

Their goal on Friday was to get their long-time neighbor out of his home.

"What we're trying to do is get back up there," Luke Immel said. "We have a person that's still up there, that wouldn't leave."

RELATED: Staggering photos show scope of wildfires' devastation

Cal Fire said those refusing to leave put themselves and first responders at risk. Some crews have already had to go back into the fire zones to help rescue people who stayed.

Besides fire, downed wires and trees can be extremely dangerous.

Even so, residents say every wildfire has its holdouts.

"He's a long-term mountain man and his attitude is: I'm going to defend, save my house and property, or I'm going to die trying," Immel explained.

VIDEO: Bay Area shrouded in smoke as Northern California wildfires rage

From Oakland to Point Reyes, smoke enveloped the Bay Area as fires scorched Northern California.