Ten days into fighting the SCU Lightning Complex fires east of San Jose, the “arrows are going in the right direction,” but there’s still months left to go before the fires are fully quelled.
The most recent public safety Q&A with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Fire Department Chief Robert Sapien and Deputy City Manager Lee Wilcox Aug. 25 detailed no new evacuation orders, but advised continued caution as smoke and fires linger, especially still in the heart of wildfire season.
Sparked by more than 1,000 lightning strikes Aug. 16, around 20 separate fires in the SCU Complex have since burned together into the second largest fire in California history, totaling 59 square miles of land.
Cal Fire reported the fire was 15% contained.
“When we start seeing numbers above 70%, you start to get a really good sense that they’re feeling highly confident that the incident is completely contained,” Sapien said. “But that doesn’t mean that a low number like 15% is really any reason to panic – it has a lot to do with how much work is left.”
The fire chief said the initial threat to San Jose is being managed, and he doesn’t expect any expansion of evacuations, especially as additional storms forecast for the South Bay never came to fruition. Fielding a question from a viewer, Sapien said East San Jose is safe from evacuations as people are re-populating in those neighborhoods.
“Fortunately, today I can tell you that things are far more stable,” Sapien said.
While there are still fires burning in blooms on the map, such as northeast of Alum Rock Park, those aren’t an immediate concern while behind fire lines and within burned land, Sapien said.
Some areas in East San Jose are already repopulating as residents feel more safe, but it will be weeks or months to ensure the fire is completely extinguished.
Based on some of the activity, there may be risk of moving rocks and erosion in the Calaveras and Canyon zone after vegetation has been burned, but Sapien diverted expertise to that concern. Looking north to Livermore, Sapien said he’s heard reports that the fire was progressing away from Calaveras reservoir, but continued to creep north as winds change.
“We can’t say it’s fully contained, but we’re certainly watching and not hearing any expanded evacuation,” he said.
Hotel rooms for fire victims
For those needing to evacuate, discounted hotel rates are still available in San Jose at 14 locations under the new San Jose Cares program, with prices ranging from $79 to $99 each night.
“We know that hotels in other towns or cities may be raising their rates right now, sadly, given the increased demand for a room,” Liccardo said earlier this week. “But we’re going to take the high road here; we’re going to reduce our rates and make rooms available for a lot of families that need them.”
Participating hotels include:
• BW Plus Airport Plaza
• Hilton San Jose
• Westin San Jose
• AC Hotel
• Pavilion Inn
• Hotel DeAnza
• San Jose Marriott
• Hayes Mansion
• Hotel Valencia
• Country Inn & Suites
• Aloft Santa Clara
People impacted by the fires only need to request the “San Jose Cares” rate, according to Kerry Adams Hapner, board member of Team San Jose, which coordinated this discounted list.
Additionally, there are four free information and temporary evacuation resource centers across Santa Clara County:
• Evergreen Community Center: 4860 San Felipe Road
• Milpitas Library: 160 N. Main Street
• Ann Sobrato High School: 401 Burnett Ave, Morgan Hill
• Quinlan Community Center: 10185 N Stelling Road, Cupertino
Airbnb is also looking for more hosts, as the market has been saturated by demand.
Residents wanting to volunteer can reach out to the American Red Cross, which is receiving requests and supplies online. In-person donations are discouraged without the ability to coordinate supplies.
Anyone needing assistance evacuating can call Santa Clara County at 808-7778, while alerts can be set up online at alertSCC.org or by texting your zip code to 888-777. More information and resources can be found online at Cal Fire’s Ready for Wildfire and Silicon Valley Strong.