Widespread fires prompt staff members to evacuate

August 20, 2020 — by Kaitlyn Tsai
Photo by Selina Chen

Smoke settled over Saratoga on Aug. 19 as the fires raged miles away, largely uncontained. The air quality in Downtown Saratoga reached a peak of over 250 AQI at noon before the wind cleared the air.

Multiple teachers and other school staff have evacuated their homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz as the voracious CZU Lightning Complex fires continue to burn with no containment.

Among the staff members affected are math teacher Jennifer Mantle, assistant principal Kerry Mohnike, English teacher Amy Keys and Anatomy and Physiology teacher Kristoffer Orre. Others are packing their bags in case they need to leave. According to an email from principal Greg Louie, some substitute teachers may lead virtual classes for teachers who have been impacted by the fires or power outages.

Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Aug. 18 due to 367 fires sweeping across northern and central California coupled with extreme weather conditions; the number has since grown to over 560. The fires comprise the CZU Lightning Complex, which, as of Sunday morning, has burned over 67,000 acres in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties; the SCU Lightning Complex, which spans over 339,000 acres throughout Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties; and the LNU Lightning Complex, which has burned over 341,000 acres across Napa and Sonoma counties, according to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

As of Sunday, the CZU Lightning Complex is 5 percent contained, the SCU Lightning Complex is 10 percent contained and the LNU Lightning Complex is 17 percent contained. The government began issuing evacuation orders on Tuesday night, and over 62,000 people have left their homes.

As a result of the unhealthy air quality in Saratoga and the school’s poor ventilation system, the administration initially closed campus to all staff and students, but as the air cleared on Thursday, campus reopened. The school closed early at 1:30 p.m. on Friday as air quality reached unhealthy levels again.

Further updates on the fires can be found on the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s website or on their Twitter accounts at @calfireSCU and @calfireCZU. Live updates on air quality in Saratoga can be found here.

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Photo of the week

Due to the lightning complex that occurred in the week of Aug.17, Santa Clara County is currently surrounded by wildfires, covering the city of Saratoga in heavy smoke. The air quality was in the range of 100 to 200 for the past five days, forcing SHS to close down. Photo by Selina Chen.

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