Multiple Wildfires Rip Through San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties

Brian German Industry

Firefighters are working to battle multiple wildfires in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties that were caused by recent lightning storms.  The fires are collectively being referred to as the CZU August Lightning Complex and has so far burned more than 40,000 acres. Owner of Corvus Farms near Año Nuevo State Park, Rob James said the fires in the area have been stressful. “The reality that you are a little bit of a wind direction shift away from losing everything is a little overwhelming,” James noted.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Cal Fire reports that the multiple wildfires in the area are zero percent contained. James has about 1,500 chickens, ducks, quail, and rabbits on his small farm and said that he has been fortunate. His farm is on a bit of a peninsula and the fire has thus far has been burning past his operation. “I haven’t had to evacuate, and I haven’t lost any livestock. But I’ve got friends who are facing the loss of generational farms. So, I don’t really feel like I have anything to complain about,” said James.

multiple wildfires
COURTESY: ROB JAMES

The fire began Monday, August 17 and has since resulted in evacuation orders for multiple areas of San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. James considers himself lucky and empathizes with other farmers in the area who have not been as fortunate, knowing what is at stake when wildfires impact ag operations.

“There’s no way that I would be able to evacuate everything that I have so it would just be devastating,” said James. “I don’t have any type of an insurance policy that would replace what I lose so I’m 100 percent invested in everything that I have out here.”

FIREFIGHTERS COMBATTING HUNDREDS OF ACTIVE INCIDENTS

Governor Gavin Newsom has issued an emergency declaration to address the multiple wildfires currently active in the state. Cal Fire and other agencies are working to deal with hundreds of active wildfires while much of the state has issued excessive heat warnings. “I just know that with all of the fires that are in California right now and everything going on they are incredibly thin-staffed. We just spoke to a firefighter who is working his second straight 24-hour shift,” said James.

Cal Fire has noted that their resources have been maxed out and the department is seeking additional assistance from other states. Officials have requested 375 additional fire engines to address the multiple wildfires, along with additional hand crews. James expressed his appreciation for the firefighters, bulldozer operators, and hand crews working to protect his community and took pride in the fact that ag operations such as his can provide any kind of assistance in the effort.

“They were using our reservoir on the farm to fill up their water tanks for the helicopters that were fighting the blaze across the street,” James noted. “The fact that Cal Fire has access to water that is in proximity to the fires is a huge benefit and most of the big farms have agricultural reservoirs. So, seeing those being put to use in ways that are not just to water crops, it was an awesome sight to watch that yesterday.”

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Brian German

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Multimedia Journalist for AgNet West