If you ride in the American west for long enough, you eventually learn how it feels to lose a trail to fire. When we worry about wildfires, that’s what we worry about. But the CZU August Lightning Complex fire, whose origin is less than 20 miles northwest of the city of Santa Cruz, is threatening more than just our trails. It’s threatening our people.
Both Ibis Cycles and Santa Cruz Bikes are headquartered in Santa Cruz. Bell, Giro, Blackburn and Fox Suspension are just a few miles north in Scotts Valley, as are BMC’s U.S. operations. Even Specialized is not too far from the burn area in Morgan Hill, which had its own little 340-acre flare-up in early July. But the CZU August Lightning Complex fire has burned over 80,000 acres, and at the time of writing this, is only 21-percent contained.
The affected area spans from the Pacific coast about 10 miles east to State Route 9, which connects Santa Cruz to San Jose through the Santa Cruz mountains. For nearly a week, towns along Route 9 have been evacuated. Redwood Grove, Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond and Fulton, to name a few, are on the easternmost frontier of the growing fire. But in the center of it is Bonny Doon. The town of about 2,600 people can be found deep in the red spot on just about every fire map you’ll see. Many of the 590 structures reported to have been destroyed in the CZU fire were in Bonny Doon.
The region is densely forested and sparsely populated, and is a haven for people who work in the surrounding cities. Cities where, for years, housing costs have been getting further and further out of reach for most who chose to make a living in the bike industry. Relocating to the mountain towns outside of Santa Cruz is an idyllic version of commuting from the suburbs to escape the city. The rent is low and so is the crime. It’s no wonder that it’s full of people who, chances are, played a role in making the bike or the gear that either you or one of your friends rides. But right now, many of them have had their lives turned upside down by this fire. Some of them have lost everything they own.
So, we put together a list of places you can go to help. Some are general fundraisers for the region. Some are focused on specific families. More will likely be emerging in the coming weeks. In fact, there is a plan in the works from Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz to have an area-wide initiative with the support of the bike industry in the area. We will add a link to that effort, as well as any others that we learn of, so watch this space for updates. But for now, these are the initiatives we know of.
The CFSCC is a trusted nonprofit that actually formed in 1982 to meet the needs of such disasters as these fires. At the time, a major flood had just hit Santa Cruz. Emma Ussat is a Bonny Doon resident, and she created a fundraiser selling T-shirts directly supporting the CFSCC’s Bonny Doon Fund. Ussat worked together with Ibis Cycles’ designer, Roxy Lo to create the shirts. You can follow these links to find each design, inspired by Bonny Doon’s local flora, one red and blue, and one yellow and green.
At this time there are 44 Santa Cruz Bicycles employees that have been evacuated and displaced, and four have lost their homes entirely. Many more are waiting to hear about when they will be able to return to their homes, and if they even have a home left to return to. Because most Santa Cruz employee evacuees gathered their families & pets and escaped with the clothes on their backs, the most immediate short-term need is for temporary housing, food, clothes and other essential day-to-day living items. This fund is specifically set up to help with this.
Bonnydoonfirerelief.org has partnered with the Santa Cruz Community Fund to leverage their existing 501(c)(3) status and proven track record to ensure that 100 percent of donors’ gifts will be used for the relief effort in the Bonny Doon Community. Additionally, they are coordinating with local community leaders and the Bonny Doon Elementary School Board to develop a method for strategic allocation of funds with a focus on those that need it most. All donations are tax-deductible.
Andrea and Syd both work for Santa Cruz Bicycles. Andrea is an engineering project manager and Syd is in human resources. They purchased their home in Bonny Doon just this year, and soon after adopted a lab/German shepherd mix puppy and are expecting their first baby in December. But their house was destroyed in the CZU fire. The couple had fire insurance, but paying rent while displaced on top of a mortgage will be difficult, so anything will help.
Garen works in marketing at Santa Cruz Bicycles, and his wife Taylor is a registered nurse. They bought their property in Bonny Doon two years ago, and now there’s nothing left. They’re already dealing with a mortgage, a newborn and student loans, and losing their home on top of it all makes for a very heavy lift. Here’s where you can help.
If you know of any other fundraising initiatives around the CZU fire, especially those aimed at the mountain biking community, please share them in the comments below. And thank you!
This article originally appeared on Bikemag.com and was republished with permission.