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Lightning fire sweeps through Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch

SwantonPacificRanch cal poly sign
Joe Johnston / Cal Poly
swanton pacific ranch cal poly
Cal Poly
SwantonPacificRanch cal poly
Joe Johnston / Cal Poly

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. - Cal Poly president Jeffrey D. Armstrong reported that a wildfire spread through the university's Swanton Pacific Ranch in Santa Cruz County Wednesday night.

President Armstrong confirmed that all Cal Poly students and staff were able to safely evacuate the ranch Tuesday evening as the fire approached the area.

In his message, Armstrong wrote:

Dear Cal Poly Community,

We are sad to report that last evening, a fire passed through Cal Poly's Swanton Pacific Ranch in Santa Cruz County. All Cal Poly staff and students had evacuated Tuesday evening and are safe.

The fire is part of the CZU August Lightning Complex in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties. (More info:

The fire is still active in the region, and further assessment will occur in the coming days.

We ask that you keep the Swanton Pacific Ranch and Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences teams in your thoughts, but refrain from reaching out directly to offer assistance to keep lines of communication open for emergency personnel.


Jeffrey D. Armstrong

Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, Ph.D.
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Cal Poly Office of the President

According to CAL FIRE, this blaze broke out Monday, Aug. 17 around 10:32 p.m. in the evening.

At this time, the fire has burned about 40,000 acres and is 0% contained. It continues to spread in both San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.

Investigators have confirmed this fire was caused by lightning strikes in the area.

It is unclear how many buildings on Swanton Pacific Ranch are threatened, damaged or destroyed at this time.

The ranch spans 3,200 acres and is used to help Cal Poly students experience what it is like to work on a ranch, research and develop various career skills in the outdoors.

The ranch was donated to Cal Poly's College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences in 1993 by the late Al Smith who envisioned the ranch being used for agricultural, recreational and educational purposes.

More information about the ranch can be found here.

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Jessica Brest

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