CZU Lightning Complex Destroys More Santa Cruz County Homes Than 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

Here's an eye-popping comparison.

The CZU Lightning Complex has destroyed more homes in Santa Cruz County than the damaging Loma Prieta Earthquake

Jeffrey Wood lives near Loma Prieta Peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, almost at the epicenter of the infamous 1989 earthquake.

"I was here with my daughter when the big one hit," Wood told KCBS Radio. "It knocked me down, it knocked my telescope over, it knocked my keyboard over and television over. It (was) very powerful."

The 6.9 magnitude shaker knocked nine buildings off their foundations on his road alone. Just over 1,000 homes were destroyed. Now, over 30 years later, CAL FIRE said this combination of lightning-sparked fires has burned 1,431 structures in Santa Cruz County.

By that measure, it’s a more damaging natural disaster.

Wood said while the quake in 1989 was dramatic, wildfires are far scarier.

"If you’ve got the fuel and the oxygen and the wind and you have the right elements for a fire, it’s virtually unstoppable," Wood said.

The CZU Lightning Complex is now the ninth-most destructive wildfire in state history, ranked by buildings destroyed. CAL FIRE said it is also the seventh-biggest wildfire in terms of acreage burned.

This summer we have experienced record breaking wildfires. The #SCULightningComplex the 2nd largest fire, the #LNULightningComplex the 3rd largest, and the #AugustComplex the 7th largest fires in California history.

— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) September 2, 2020

The fires, burning in southern San Mateo and northern Santa Cruz counties, have burned over 85,000 acres and are 46% contained as of Wednesday morning. It has also caused serious damage to beloved places like Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which is not expected to open again for 12 months out of concern for visitor safety.