Cal Fire CZU Lightning Complex Fire news conference, 6pm Monday Aug. 24
1:37AM Aug 25, 2020
santa cruz county
Good evening. This is the 6pm press conference for the CCU complex. My name is Jonathan Cox deputy chief for callfire here in the San Mateo Santa Cruz unit. As always, if you could just mute your telephones please take any conversations outside the press briefing area and keep your masks on at all times. Just wanted to bring everybody up to speed after the weather came through yesterday and we found ourselves here getting wet last night. Over the course of the evening in across California, the CAL FIRE confirm that there were over 300 lightning strikes in the state overall. 10 of those caused new fires are 10 new fires occurred overnight. And zero none of those fires occurred in the San Mateo Santa Cruz unit, so no light and caused fires over the last 24 hours. Which if you remember when we were standing here 24 hours ago, we were all highly concerned about with the red fire conditions. With that on the CCU lightning complex this evening, we're up to 78,600 84 acres, obviously we get more specific on the numbers, the more we're able to ground truth it with people on the ground. And we are we are confirming 78,684 acres this evening, we remain at 13% contained and have over 25,000 structures that still remain threatened to do to the fire. We also can confirm this evening that 276 structures have been destroyed. That is both in San Mateo and Santa Cruz County, a large majority of those structures are in Santa Cruz County. And obviously that information will get down to the specifics as it gets released to each EEOC at the county level. And finally, some even better news we're up to 1609 firefighters, personnel assigned to this incident. Obviously every number of firefighters that comes on the line has a direct correlation to the percent increase in containment that we can gain. So that's a welcome a welcome development for us. With that, I'm gonna pass it off for an operational overview from callfire IMT three Section Chief Mark Brenton.
Good evening. So today with the weather that we had really led us to get in there and do a lot of good work. We had a lot of progress in the fire today. With a clear air, we were able to fly a lot more aircraft. I'll address that here shortly. And on the ground, again as chief Cox said that we brought in more resources and we were able to get more heavy equipment, the bulldozers and so forth that are going to help us construct those those lines. So a lot of good work going on it predominantly up in the North Zone. We're having good progress with our line construction continuing. The fire still is backing into low marmar and and butano. But again, it's pretty much creeping. We are monitoring that it's not making any sort of threat to those communities, but it is still advancing albeit slowly. There is a whole road in Division golf in Hilo that I've been talking about. bout that lines been improved, the fire is creeping down into that it's holding which is great because that is keeping fire from from making any sort of advancement into potentially Santa Clara County. So that's looking really good. We're very happy with the results there. As we're looking at the highway nine corridor continued work along that corridor. Again, as I've said before, difficult terrain to work in very steep terrain, heavy fuels. Not the most ideal area to put our control lines like we typically do but it is we're making do with it. We're making it work and it is holding and most all locations in the State Park down below, Ben loman. Continue to work in there. That's going to be one of our challenge points. One of those areas is going to be a lot of work, a lot of planning, but we are making advancements there throughout the south skin looking really good our containment line or primary or secondary line on that south part of the fire is solid, the area that we burned in yesterday. Fantastic. It's holy It's doing what you want. Any fire that is burned down to that is either self negated meaning extinguished or it is holding on that line which is exactly what we wanted to do. So it really really minimizes that threat to Santa Cruz and the UC campus so it's looking really good very happy with that those results in Bonnie doon continue to work within those structures. Again, painstaking work, a lot of structures out there, a lot of heavy fuels, still some fire creeping throughout that but again, that's a lot of work just digging in and getting after it and take care of business. We did a small burn operation along Empire grade road to Martin road that kind of puts in a nice control line for us. So keep spread going to the west and and affecting more homes. So that's a good, good, controlling. We did the button that little bit up. And then as far as our air program didn't fly, any of the fixed wing air tankers on it didn't really have a need for that but what was critical as the flight the use of our helicopters, we have six water dropping helicopters assigned to this incident. Today was the best day Yeah, we were able to drop 200,000 that's 200,000 gallons throughout the day in fire suppression activities with our helicopter. So with our ground troops or aerial, Air Force going, great day and a lot of good work out there and a lot advancement work moving forward with the weather. We're expecting. I think we're gonna have more days like this, and hopefully get us closer to the end of suppressing this fire.
Speaking next from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office is chief deputy Chris Clark.
Well, good evening. So I wanted to touch on a few things. A few things tonight. 179 personnel work in the valley. If you've been if you've been displaced out, I want you to know and kind of get a feeling and an understanding of kind of what our police presence looks like, near your home and so today 79 folks worked work the San Lorenzo valley that was 33 of our people here at the sheriff's office. And we were aided by 46 additional officers through mutual aid from agencies over the hill and as well as in within, within our county. And I kind of want to give you an idea kind of what typically that situation would look like just kind of give you some perspective of how much police presence is up here. So the San Lorenzo Valley, when it comes to policing you it's broken into three separate beats three separate zones, policed by basically at any one given time, over a 24 hour period, under normal circumstances, I'd be policed by three deputies. So today, we had 79. And not only that, we broke those three zones down into 17 specific zones. So to kind of give you an idea, three larger zones broken down into 17 more specific areas, manned by 79. Officers and deputies, in those zones, driving around and looking for people that shouldn't be there or responding to people that needed to needed evacuating or had an emergency that they needed help with in terms of calls for service, so today, we responded to 17 suspicious people or persons calls that came in, as well as 11 welfare checks. And, and we did make arrests. And so you know, our guys are out there again, I want to assure the folks in San Lorenzo Valley, and we're committed to providing this police presence and looking for people that are potentially looking to prey on on you and and your neighbors. And so I want to highlight a couple of these arrests today. So today, we arrested two folks. One was a was a 51 year old woman who, in Felton that that by that was in an evac in the evacuated zone should not have been there. Another one was a 49 year old man from Santa Cruz, we got into a short pursuit with him. When we ended up when that when he ended up stopping, we found $5,000 in cash, a set of binoculars and a video camera. And so that person went to jail for obviously getting into a pursuit with us resisting arrest and then Being in an evacuated zone. And then we cited two other folks. again for being in the evacuated zone. They they although they, they they resided there they were in the evacuated zone should not have been there. And again, just touching on that. I mean, we completely empathize with people wanting to come back and we get it, you're displaced. I mean, we, and I've said this before, that we have our own personnel that have been evacuated during this fire, that really would love to go back and sleep in asleep in their own bed. But it's just make until this fire gets under more it gets under control. It's just imperative that people stay out of the area to allow fire to do their job and allow us really to focus on the people that shouldn't be there. In terms of in On another note. So with regards to that, there's been an outpouring of interest in the firefighters, the firefighter who got his truck broken into and his wallet stolen. And so I think everybody agrees that that I mean, that's just it, that conduct is just it's absolutely it's outrageous, so especially for people trying to help and so what I wanted to do is it's our detectives They, through leads and through their investigation, they are going to need your help on this and I'm going to show you some pictures. And so for for the media, these photos will be available to you. But the the firefighter who lost his wallet, his cards were used at the Safeway grocery store on 41st Avenue in capitola. And the Shell Gas Station Santa Cruz, and then his cards were also used to purchase or attempted purchase a Bitcoin. And so it was about a $2,000 loss. Here's a more close up view. So we believe this person is likely a valley resident likely a Bonnie doon resident, and really what we're hoping is that if you've been evacuated from the Bonnie doon area, you may recognize him. And so again, I'm holding a picture here, this will get posted to social media. And so maybe maybe you recognize it, or maybe it's the Giants had maybe it's the longer lighter colored hair, but either way this picture will be available. Take a look at it. We encourage you to take a look at it and help us in identifying who this person Is the firefighter himself. Again outpouring of support, I feel a call literally from Kansas City, Missouri today from a lady who said we would love to set up a GoFundMe in Kansas City because we just we can't believe that somebody would do that to people that are willing to help. Now the firefighters family has said that as much as they appreciate it, they just at this point they the insurances, reimburse them, and they don't need the assistance. But that just shows you the the national spread of, of just this event and kind of think just overall kind of how we feel about that sort of conduct. It's just it's, it's a it's crazy.
A couple other things. So on another note, and really a somber note, I spoke last night about a person who we found deceased at the end of last chance wrote, today we identified that man is 73 year old Tad Jones. And so we've we've spoken to his family as a last chance resident. And so there there'll be an autopsy pending German the cause of death there but in more information to come but, but we identified him and spoke to his family. I want to talk about cell service for just a second. So as I mentioned last night, Verizon and at&t cell service was a little sporadic. Verizon was able to make some improvements today. So Verizon coverage should be better within the valley. at&t was working today to kind of fix their issue. So hopefully that will get that that'll get fixed as well. We also have been fielding a lot of calls. So the city of Santa Cruz issued in I mentioned this morning, issued a pre warning for the city of Santa Cruz. And there's a lot of I know, we feel a lot of calls from a lot of uneasy residents. And I just want to let you know that based on the information we have, there's no imminent danger to the city of Santa Cruz at this time. But nonetheless, that pre warning went out, obviously to keep people better prepared. And so that's that's why that happened. And then in terms of evacuate in terms of evacuations for another city, there was a rumor going around Facebook and really, it was rumor was about it started with basically somebody saying hey, this City of Scotts Valley the order has been lifted, you can go back home if you live in the city of Scotts Valley. That's false. That's That's not true. And so we put something out on social media to Cydia Scotts Valley put something out on social media. And so really I just encouraged that encourage you that you know, I know people are on social media we but but go to a trusted site right go to callfire go to the Santa Cruz Sheriff's Office San Mateo sheriff's office to get information, make sure that the sources valid. And then lastly, I just want to touch on a couple resources for people, you know, in terms of you know, you've been displaced, you know, there's maybe costs that aren't covered by your insurance company. And I've said this before, I really I feel for people I mean with COVID and with, you know, the the financial hardship that that brings, especially at a time like this, if insurance doesn't cover your loss. I can't I can't even imagine how you would, you'd feed a family how you survive. But nonetheless, I found two resources today that I wanted to pass along to be able to help people with with things that that maybe you're not covered by insurance. insurance. So one is it's a website, disaster assistance.gov, disaster assistance, Govt. And then the other is a FEMA app. So if you go on into the app store or whatever, you know, application vendor you have, you know, whether you have an iPhone or or an Android when you download the FEMA app, and there's resources on there that would be able to help you. If you had costs that you couldn't get reimbursed through normal channels. Thank you.
Speaking next from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office is Sergeant Sol's excuse me, Sergeant salzano.
Good evening. as Deputy Chief Clark mentioned, we have safety and security teams that are patrolling the areas that have been affected evacuated 24 hours a day. We're doing this To protect your property, we're doing this to keep you safe. And to also keep suspicious people out. We have, we did have an incident where some people snuck in to try to check on their property and and ended up getting caught in a hazard. So I just want to remind you, please do not attempt to go back to check on your property. If your property has been affected by fire, there are a lot of unknown hazards that the fire professionals don't have to go and inspect and verify. We know that you're very eager to go back home. And once it is safe to do so, we will let you know. As of right now, there's no date to cancel any evacuation order. We have also heard rumors. So that's not true because a fire still very active. And also in unfortunately, a lot of people are taking advantage of the People's vulnerability and there are a lot of fire related scams going on right now. With social media. Just want to remind you guys fire personnel long for personnel in uniform will never approach you and ask you for money. They're never going to call your home and ask you for money. So if you receive a phone call something via social media, please vet it before you donate any funds. Thank you.
Speaking next, representing all of the unified command agencies in control of this incident is CAL FIRE Incident Management Team three incident commander Billy see.
A good evening, obviously, you're probably hearing some of the helicopters fly around. That's a good day. Obviously, we're able to get the rotor wing up today working on this incident, and I believe we're going to be timing all six helicopters out on the sensor today, which is a good firefighting day for folks out on the ground. As we move into the next three or four days, we're looking at onshore wind pattern. That one To increase the humidity or decrease the temperatures a bit. Still at the higher elevations, we're still looking at very dry conditions. At the lower elevations, it's going to temper the fire activity. The fire is challenging some of the lines and some of the places but it's a backing slow progressing fire. Our firefighters are out on the ground. They're working aggressively to get containment lines put in. Obviously, there's some difficulties in some areas. What we normally try to do traditionally, is work on high Ridge lines. And obviously now we're down in lower drain ages, side hills and mid slope behind the homes trying to protect the infrastructure best as possible. So our traditional methods what we normally do is going to be challenged with this incident just because of the amount of intermix of homes and the terrain features that are out there. Obviously, we increased our personal numbers today. Although small, it is an increase in It's a benefit to this incident. And we'll continue to see a trickle effect of both personnel and resources showing up here over the next few days. Thank you.
And our final speaker representing California San Mateo Santa Cruz unit in chief, excuse me, unit chief Ian Larkin.
As Chief C's just stated, we're starting to make progress and with the resources along with the the improved weather, our crews are out there working as hard as they can. The terrain they're working at is very treacherous, very steep, that has steep canyons that are making it difficult for them to get in there and get the direct line that put in but they're working as hard as they possibly can as fast as they can, in attempt to get people back into the area. Also are cooperating agencies such as pg&e and other agencies are out there, inspecting their infrastructure in order to get power and everything better. back into the areas before we can start to let evacuees back in. That's going to take a little bit of time. So we continue to ask for your patience. Let us get the work done that needs to be done to make that environment as safe as possible so that we can get people back into the residence. As you heard today, we it's a welcome sight to be able to get aircraft up. That's been one of the factors that has helped hamper our efforts is not to be able to fly our aircraft in order to help control the fire. As I keep saying, this is a historic event. And with that comes everything with that it's going to be a long process. This is a long haul. It's not something that's just going to be going away at the end of September or October. We're going to be here dealing with this thing for more than a year, the aftermath of it. So please be diligent with us and have some patience, and we'll get to try to get you back into your homes and get this thing controlled as soon as we can. Thank you.
Alright, happy to answer any questions. Yep.
The questions related to our is the sheriff's department sighting people in the evacuation zone uniformly or on case by case basis.
Yeah, so my instruction to our patrol staff is exactly what I'd mentioned in this press conference, which is just that, that if you're that, and I've said this before, and in their instruction is, if you're in the evacuated area, you shouldn't be there. It's against the law, we understand. And again, we empathize with with somebody's desire to go there. But no, if you're in the evacuated area, you're going to get a citation and then if you're in the evacuated area, and you're there doing something else you shouldn't be or you absolutely have no business being there at all because you're not even a resident of the area, you're likely going to jail.
Yes, the question was related to people in Bonnie doon who haven't, haven't left and feels as though they're, they're there to protect. And this issue has come up a couple times, there's there's two things that I think we can say pretty firmly. One is that we do not want anybody to get hurt or or or become trapped. And by that I mean, we use air tankers with 20,000 gallons of retardant in that we use fire as a tool to actually stop an oncoming fire. And if those types of operations are not coordinated or communicated to other people that might be out there. The last thing we want to happen is an injury a preventable injury to happen on the line on the fireline. So our perspective is is obvious very concerned with safety and people's health and well being. Having said that, as a human, I can sympathize with them for wanting to save their property and their community that they love. Our message is, you know, we need space to operate, we need to be in the evacuated zone, to be able to get our crews in to be able to work safely. And nothing is more important than having the space and the ability to do that. People who decide to stay on their property and defend their own property is obviously their choice. But any sort of organization that may impede with firefighting operation is not only potentially harmful for them, but it's potentially harmful for our firefighters as well.
Yeah, I mean, so this comes up kind of year over year, our mutual aid system in California You know, the unfortunate reality of living in California is that the system that deploys resources to any type of disaster is well versed and well oiled machine. It happens daily on small incidents locally, all the way up to incidents like we're seeing right now. And because it's utilized so often, the implementation of it is, is is faster than anywhere else in the nation. And what that really means is you can get a resource from LA County, on the road within hours to head up to Santa Cruz County, and the coordination that goes into that the kind of the backside of communications, the financial payment, side of things, identification, all of those things are already pre established. With that being said, when you have over two dozen large incidents breakout literally on the same night, it is going to test the mutual aid system, because there's a finite number of resources obviously, and to get everybody on the road at the same time. You know, it's literally a capacity issue. How big Is the bandwidth of the pipe to get to get all that information flow to the right agency? So I think we all take pride in the system we work with here in California as far as mutual aid is concerned. I tell you what, there There is. There is no way in California that you can deal with an emergency of this size without that full force. Kind of all hands on deck. That is that is mutual aid here. Yeah.
Yes. Yeah. So even if I'm hearing you're crying, the question is, what's the most dangerous spot on the fire right now? I think Mark could be the best answer.
Yes, certainly, probably the most challenging and the one that we're most concerned with is on the highway nine corridor or basically, from where you see division, K, all the way down to about division. ww whiskey whiskey. That's that whole stretch is the most active. That's the area that is chief see mentioned earlier and I mentioned earlier is very problematic in the fact that we can employ our traditional strategy and tactics there due to the topography due to the fuel loading and so forth. Because of that, and because that has more of the open flank of the fire, and that that's hard. That's our challenge. That's the one that that we're really having to put our plans to be very careful with our plans are in make sure that we really look at that closely. We have to do a lot of reconnaissance of that area. It's just not our typical go to bread and butter type operation that we have to do there. So because of that, and because it is painstakingly slow because you have to go through around a bunch of homes and so forth. That That one is concerning to us and and into myself in my staff, the area in bunny Dune that's just going to take time But it isn't as complicated per se and technical. But it's because of the amount of the resource, the structures and the limited resources, we have to go in and get every hotspot and get around every home. That's just gonna be time. Take time. The other parts of the fire, a little bit more straightforward. And once we have some specialized resources, we'll be able to get a lot of production around that that western part of the fire and into the north part of the fire. It's just once we get those resources, but yes, to answer your question that eastern part of the fire is is my concern right now?
Yeah, Randy Gordon from kvcc.
Throughout the day, I was tracking along with like a significant air attack in the Philippines.
As well as look like significant progress. I wonder if we could characterize what took place there And
sure, so the question is related to the progress in action They were taken out on the areas behind Ben loman, especially in relation to the air attack. She
certainly so what you were witnessing there was a lot of the work that we're doing, as I was mentioning earlier around the backside of the structures in particular just below Ben Lomond in the state park and then moving from that North. So what we're doing we've put in some line, both hand line in and dozer line early in the incident to to check the fire up if you will, to slow its progress and move forward. Not the kind of finished completed line that we really like to use, where where it has a full control factor and we can use to our advantage to extinguish and put out the fire. So now we're going back we're improving that hasty line. We you saw the helicopters dropping there to support the crews down below because of the act of fire. We You know, they're there on their own. We don't always have maybe a hose that we can put in there with them. So they're out there with their hand tools or with the dozers and the helicopters are supporting that effort. So they're extinguishing cooling things down so our ground troops can get in there and put in that good control line. So that's, that's what you saw. That's what you're going to continue to see for the coming days, that same operation. And that's what's going on there. And as you'll see that progressing up the valley, and that's that's good progress, you can almost monitor the proud progress by just following that activity up the valley.
Alright, everybody who's up here will be available for questions after this press conference. Just reminder, we'll be back here tomorrow morning at 6am. I want to conclude the press conference and say thank you for joining us.