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Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch charred by CZU Lightning Complex fire, multiple structures destroyed

swanton pacific ranch cal poly burned 3
Cal Poly
Many important buildings at Swanton Pacific Ranch were destroyed in the out-of-control CZU Lightning Complex wildfire. Cal Poly has begun raising funds for their plan to rebuild.
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Cal Poly
The house belonging to Swanton Pacific Ranch's previous owner, the late Al Smith, was fully destroyed by the fire.
al smith house destroyed in fire at swanton pacific ranch
The house belonging to Swanton Pacific Ranch's previous owner, the late Al Smith, was fully destroyed by the fire.
swanton pacific ranch cal poly burned 2
Cal Poly

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - Cal Poly shared images on Friday of the destruction flames from the CZU Lightning Complex fire have caused to the university's Swanton Pacific Ranch in Santa Cruz County.

The fire burned the ranch property Aug. 19 and 20, just a day after students, animals and staff evacuated the area.

Cal Poly confirmed all staff, students and livestock remain safe. "While much is still unknown, we do know that the Cal Poly community is resilient. We will work closely with both our Cal Poly family and our partners in the surrounding Santa Cruz community to rise up and rebuild," Cal Poly said in a tweet.

Access to the ranch remains restricted due to hot spots around the area, downed power lines and sink holes.

As of Friday, the university has determined important structures including the Al Smith House, Seaside School House, Red House, Archibald House, Staub House and yurts, Cal Barn, Little Creek House, Car Barn, rail cars, Roundhouse and Car Shop have all been destroyed by the fire.

The Green House, Long Barn, Bunk House, Railroad Machine Shop, Train Station, full-size cabooses and picnic grounds appear undamaged at this time. However, the locomotives did burn and will be evaluated for damage at a later time.

Cal Poly said, "A full assessment of the damage will take weeks, perhaps even months, to fully identify."

All educational programs at the ranch have been halted.

As the battle against the fire continues, Cal Poly started a recovery and relief fund for the ranch. Donations can be made online here.

As of Friday, the CZU Lightning Complex fire has burned 82,540 acres across both San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. It is now 26% contained.

Investigators have confirmed the fire complex was caused by lightning strikes in the area over the past 10 days.

Swanton Pacific 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.

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Jessica Brest

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