On the one-year anniversary of a lightning siege that ignited wildfires throughout the state, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) continues to help communities rebuild and recover.
On August 16, 2020, 11,000 bolts of lightning during a thunderstorm across the state started hundreds of wildfires, including the SCU Complex, LNU Complex, August Complex, SQF Complex, and CZU Complex.
Specifically, the CZU Lightning Complex leveled 1,490 structures; damaged 140 other structures; and consuming 86,509 acres.
Big Basin Headquarters Before and After Fire (State Parks)
Burning in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, the CZU Complex also ravaged through the state’s oldest park – Big Basin Redwoods State Park – destroying roads, bridges, campsites, trails, the visitor center, restrooms, electrical and water systems — everything that makes a park accessible to the public. Forests of giant redwoods were charred by flames that soared more than 100 feet high. Trees that didn’t fall in the fire were knocked down by howling winds in January, delivering the fatal coup de grace.
It was the most comprehensive destruction ever of a major park in California history.
Despite the previous year’s losses, state disaster recovery officials report that significant progress toward recovery has been made in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties.
“As we approach the one-year anniversary of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, we remain motivated and determined to seeing recovery operations through to completion,” said Cal OES Deputy Director Ryan Buras. “With dedicated federal and local partners at our side, the state looks forward in continuing to serve the communities that have been most impacted by this devastating fire.”
More than $7.4 Million in Housing, Rental and Other Needs Provided
Thanks to a major disaster declaration at the request of Governor Gavin Newsom, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state have provided more than $7.4 million in assistance to homeowners and renters in the form of grants through FEMA’s Housing Program and the state’s Supplemental Program.
The Housing Program is a joint Federal and State program, which provides assistance following a Presidentially declared disaster. FEMA may provide awards in the form of rent, home repair or replacement, transportation repair or replacement, funeral expenses, personal property, medical, dental, or other miscellaneous expenses.
The state’s Supplemental Grant Program provides funds to assist people who have suffered damage in a disaster area declared by the President when the federal assistance to the housing program is implemented.
To date, federal and state disaster officials have approved the following help for residents impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex:
- Housing Assistance Provided: 75
- Housing Assistance Funding: $335,471.38
- Supplemental Grant Program: 1 application approved for $10,000
- Housing Assistance Provided: 1,311
- Housing Assistance Funding: $6,718,322.77
- Supplemental Grant Program: 36 Applications approved for $360,000.00
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Provided Over $31 Million in Loans to Homeowners, Renters and Business Owners
The data below reflects the number of SBA loans and total amounts provided to residents impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex:
- Home Loan Applications: 1,619
- Business Loan Applications: 719
- TOTAL: 2,338
- Home Loan Applications: 328
- Business Loan Applications: 56
- TOTAL: 384
- Home Loan Applications: 23
- Business Loan Applications: 1
- TOTAL: 24
- Home Loan Applications: $4,121,200
- Business Loan Applications: $280,000
- TOTAL: $4,401,200
- Home Loan Applications: 4,040
- Business Loan Applications: 1,547
- TOTAL: 5,587
- Home Loan Applications: 849
- Business Loan Applications: 184
- TOTAL: 1,033
- Home Loan Applications: 220
- Business Loan Applications: 20
- TOTAL: 240
- Home Loan Applications: $25,290,850
- Business Loan Applications: $1,568,670
- TOTAL: $26,859,520
CZU Lightning Complex Torches Big Basin Redwoods State Park
In addition, the state continues to work with CZU Lightning Complex survivors to rid their properties of debris and help them rebuild.
100 Percent of Properties Participating in State Debris Removal Program Cleared of Wildfire Debris
To date, state contractors have cleared burned metal, concrete, ash and contaminated soil from all 685 properties in Santa Cruz County and from all 13 properties in San Mateo County whose owners chose to participate in the state’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program following the CZU Lightning Complex. An additional 71 property owners in Santa Cruz County and an additional 17 property owners in San Mateo County signed up to participate in the hazardous trees-only element of the program.
Property owners incur no direct costs to participate in the program, which is administered by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).
684 Participating Properties Returned to County Officials as Ready for Permitting
To date, 675, or 89.3 percent of, the 756 properties in Santa Cruz County whose owners chose to participate in either the full debris removal program or the hazardous trees only element of the program have been returned to county officials as ready to start the permitting process.
State debris officials returned the 675 properties after they had completed the entire debris removal process, including the abatement of bulk quantities of asbestos-containing materials; the removal of burned metal, concrete, ash and contaminated soil; the implementation of erosion control measures; the removal of hazardous trees; and a final walkthrough by state debris officials.
In addition, debris officials have returned nine, or 30 percent, of the 30 San Mateo County properties to county officials after those properties completed the entire debris removal process.