Evacuation center full as CZU August Lightning Complex Fire scorches more than 50,000 acres

Stephanie Sierra Image
Saturday, August 22, 2020
Santa Cruz fire evacuation center already at capacity
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One of the main evacuation shelters for the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire in Santa Cruz County is already at capacity.

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- One of the main evacuation shelters for the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire in Santa Cruz County is at capacity.

Seventy-nine evacuees and their families are living in tents inside the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.

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

According to volunteers at the shelter, the tents are distanced six feet apart and people are required to pass a temperature check before entering the facility.

"It's really been nice here, it's the unknown that hurts," said evacuee Michael Martyn.

"It's going to be bad... when you really get down to the nitty gritty and find out the results of this fire, it's going to be devastating, devastating."

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

The Red Cross of Northern California and volunteers tell ABC7 the shelter is stocked with food and cleaning supplies to help evacuees amid this crisis.

What's missing? Any sign these families will have somewhere to come home to. ABC7 spoke to four families who evacuated.

"I left with my clothes... two guitars and a dog," said evacuee Robert Patterson.

"We are frustrated and desperate," said evacuee Liz Jackson. "Just feeling like we're not in control, it's been horrible."

"The ground is still hot. You have to be patient... it's the worse waiting game possible," said evacuee Naomi Sukumbi.

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"This fire is out of control," said Martyn.

These stories capture just a small glimpse of the more than 64,000 people forced to evacuate as the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire continues to burn into Santa Cruz County.

"Where have you been staying?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"Right here... there's my car. I've been sleeping there the last three weeks because I don't have no place to go," Martyn said.

A lonely feeling, Sokumbi can relate to, thinking of friends left behind.

"There's someone we don't know where they're at... it's pretty scary," she said. "Are we going to have anything when we come back?"

VIDEO: San Mateo County opens 2 evacuation centers for fire victims

In San Mateo County, officials have opened two evacuation centers for residents displaced by the fire.

One location is Half Moon Bay High School, where evacuees can check-in with county staff for information and resources, and to see if any hotel vouchers are still available. Instead of being used as an overnight shelter, the school has been designated as a temporary evacuation point.

In order to provide more room for social distancing due to COVID-19 concerns, the San Mateo County Event Center has also been setup to help evacuees connect with temporary housing.

"It's another safety check. We don't want people standing in line at shelters, and we don't want people exposed to other people in mass groups," said American Red Cross Regional CEO Jennifer Adrio, who says she is working to provide counties with as much help as possible.

"We'll make sure they have food, we'll make sure they have water, and we'll supply whatever short term needs they have."

City officials in Half Moon Bay have already closed off a number of beaches to prevent crowds from flocking to the coast this weekend.

"We're a tourist town, and we want to be stewards of this great land, and share it with everybody, that is our goal, but this current weekend, there's so many different factors going on, and so many emergency situations," said Half Moon Bay Mayor Adam Eisen.

"With all the traffic... and a fire that's coming closer... we don't want the roads to be so busy that we can't evacuate if need be."