Three years ago, the Santa Cruz Mountains including the San Lorenzo Valley and Big Basin, California's oldest State Park established in 1902, changed tragically. A thunderstorm on August 16th, 2020 brought with it 11,000 lightning bolts that started hundreds of fires across the state, including our beloved mountains. In the midst of a global pandemic, evacuations of thousands of people in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties quickly began. Displaced residents worried about their homes, their businesses and their health as they tried to maintain social distance protocols. Many had only moments to leave their homes and had only the clothes that the wore. It would be more than a month before the fire was listed as contained. It would be several months before it was listed as controlled with no risk of restarting. Nearly 90,000 acres burned. After first leaving their homes, many remained evacuated for weeks or months. For the residents of 925 homes, there was not a house to return to.
Once the evacuation lifted and people started sifting through the ashes, the strength of the community began to show itself in many ways. Neighbors gave each other all that they could. The pandemic's 8pm Howl took on a whole new meaning. Fridays on Forest brought people together with music and dancing. Doorstep dropoffs of food and supplies became more precious. The Boulder Creek Recreation and Parks Department supplied food and tools to those in need. The local water companies provided free bottled water. People who lost their homes were welcomed into friends' homes. In many more ways, people and businesses did what they could for the community. Through the devastation there was one clear message - we would help each other through this.
Each year since, there has been a CZU Remembrance on the anniversary of the start of the fires. This year the event will be on Saturday August 19th, from 4-7pm, at the Brookdale Lodge. As stated by co-organizer, Antonia Bradford, "this year it's about continuing to honor those that lost everything and offer support for the recent storm victims but with a strong emphasis on community empowerment and engagement with our forest." Included in the event will be booths and information on fire risk mitigation, disaster recovery with both county and non-profit agencies, emergency preparedness, mental health support services, food, music and more.
We hope you'll join your neighbors and friends at this community gathering. You can find more information about it by emailing CZUEventInfo@gmail.com.