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One person killed in 78,684-acre CZU August Lightning Complex Fire

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. - Cal Fire and assisting agencies held a press conference Monday evening to provide an update on efforts to contain the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires.

The fire has grown to 78,684 acres and is still 13% contained, but 276 structures have been destroyed so far. Most of the structures are in Santa Cruz County.

Sadly, fire officials reported that a 73-year-old man was killed by the fires while trying to escape.

KPIX reported that six others were trapped while trying to return to their evacuated homes near Davenport.

The man who was later identified as Tad Jones, a Last Chance resident. His body was reportedly found on Last Chance near what officials think may be his vehicle. His autopsy is still pending.

Crews said today was a good day for firefighting and shared optimism about the coming days. Cal Fire said cooperating weather and additional resources sent in allowed them to make good progress. More resources and heavy equipment were brought in, but crews were also able to bring in aircraft. They said 200,000 gallons of retardant was dropped during the day.

Chief Deputy Chris Clark with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said there are 79 members of law enforcement patrolling the San Lorenzo Valley area. They have received 17 reports of suspicious persons and 11 calls for welfare checks.

Clark said arrests were made Monday. Two people were found in the evacuation zone, and he said one of them led law enforcement on a short chase. Two people were cited for being in the evacuation zone, even though they live there. He said if people are in the evacuation area, they should not be there and should expect to receive a citation.

While responding to a fire, a firefighter had his wallet stolen in Bonny Doon. Clark asked for the community's help finding the suspect and showed pictures of him. He said there has been an outpouring of support for the firefighter, but he and his family said insurance reimbursed them for the loss, so they do not need assistance.

Clark said Santa Cruz issued a pre-warning, but there is no imminent danger to the city. The pre-warning is an effort to keep residents prepared.

CZU Unit chief Ian Larkin also spoke at the press conference, and he said fighting the fire will be a long process. Larkin said it will not just go away in September or October, but crews will be working on the aftermath for as long as a year.

Currently, Cal Fire says the most challenging and concerning area is the Highway 9 corridor because it is an active area where they cannot employ traditional strategies and tactics.

Officials again emphasized the importance of staying away from evacuated areas because crews need space to operate and work safely.

Article Topic Follows: Fire

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