Fire Recovery Local News 

Remembering the CZU Fire Two Years Later

By Julie Horner

It has been two years since the CZU Lightning Complex Fire unleashed its fury in the Santa Cruz Mountains, destroying 1,490 buildings including a number of historic structures and 911 residential homes. The fire wiped out entire communities, displaced hundreds of families, and blackened devastating swaths of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, parts of the Fall Creek unit of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and acres of backcountry in Butano State Park and Pescadero Creek county park.

The Post’s commemorative issue after the CZU Fires

The fire started north of Davenport by dry lightning on an unnaturally hot August evening in 2020. It burned to the ocean in places, swept across forest ridges, and came within a narrow margin of the historic downtown districts that dot the San Lorenzo Valley.

With reverence and hope, a team of community organizers welcomes friends, family, and neighbors all to the CZU Remembrance Gathering on Thursday, August 18, 2022 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm at the Brookdale Lodge. The event will inspire and educate with insightful presentations, interactive art installations, and resource support for those who are rebuilding and those who are interested in being part of the ongoing recovery process. There will also be sign-ups to volunteer for the CZU Barn Raising Committee, which was created to help families reclaim their properties through generous hands-on community involvement.

With live music to dance to and food and drink to nourish body and soul, organizer Antonia Bradford said, “This event will help our community reflect on what’s happened and provide an update about where fire victims are in their process of healing and recovery. Community breaking bread with each other is such a powerful thing.”

Three Boulder Creek bands will provide music on the main stage: Post Folk Revivalists, members of Wolf Jett, and Pablo Eagle from Medicine Road. BBQ will be provided by Brookdale Grill and Cafe. Beer, wine, cocktails available at the bar.

California Native Plant Society representatives will be on hand to discuss landscaping options for home hardening. Mountain Parks Foundation, which is responsible for advocacy and fundraising for Big Basin, Henry Cowell, and Fall Creek, will host an information table as will representatives from Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which just reopened to visitors in July. Members of the Rebuild Alba Schoolhouse Committee have updates to share and will have the schoolhouse bell on display.

Ben Lomond Volunteer Fire Department and many others will be among the presenters and those hosting information tables. Karla Hart-DeLong, owner of Beeline Blooms Farm & Honey Bee Haven of Ben Lomond, which burned over in the fire, is back to raising bees and dahlias and will share information about recovery at the farm and rebuild efforts at Alba Schoolhouse.

The author of “Albert’s Ashes: A Peacock’s Tail,” Jacquelyn Hendricks, will be on hand to talk about her book. Look for an interview with Jackie in the San Lorenzo Valley Post August 2022 issue. The authors of the new book called “The People Not the Fire: Stories of Resilience,” which features over 30 local Boulder Creek residents retelling their experiences during the fire and evacuation will talk about their effort. And there will be a toy giveaway for “fire kids.”

Representatives will be on hand from the following local, regional, and national organizations:

FireSafe Council of Santa Cruz County, part of Firewise USA, which assists with fire prevention education
Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) evaluations, and financial grants
Resource Conservation District (RCD) of Santa Cruz, which promotes forest health and fire resiliency.
Wildfire Resilience Program, specializing in identifying and developing recovery and preparedness resources and emergency funding for California communities impacted by wildfire.

Additional resources that will be at the event include the San Lorenzo Valley Emergency Network (SLVEN), CERT, LTRG Unmet Needs Committee, Catholic Charities for Disaster Case Management, Boulder Creek Recreation and Parks District Community Tool Shed, Equine Rescue, KBCZ (which was a crucial communication tool during the evacuation), and the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) will show recovery progress at the Boulder Creek Cemetery, which also suffered damage from the fire.

The CZU Remembrance coordination team includes Antonia Bradford, Anil Prajapati, Julie Horner, Julie Lucia, Gretchen McNelis Heimsoth, Jon Payne, Lindsay Speth, and Cheyanne Donald. Cheyanne has created the poster image for the event, and she will have her art on display. A warm and welcoming evening is in store.

Organizer Bradford said, “The CZU Barn Raising movement is really starting to take shape! With the assistance of the Santa Cruz County Association of Realtors Housing Foundation, we will be collecting donations and signing up volunteers at the event to help Fire Families. Most of the fire community is underinsured and with exploding costs, the situation has only gotten worse. These efforts will be used to help procure materials ranging from paint to flooring to appliances and labor. The San Lorenzo Valley Chamber of Commerce will also be involved, with hopes of robust support from our local businesses. Over the next month, we will be releasing more information! Let’s all come together to reflect, support, and plan for the future in our beautiful mountain community. Looking forward to seeing everyone.”

CZU Remembrance Gathering, Thursday, August 18 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Brookdale Lodge, 11570 Highway 9, Brookdale, CA.

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