Smoke from the Santa Cruz fires covers the Monterey Bay area of California on Thursday evening (August 20).
Fires have ravaged more than 40,000 acres of land around the CZU Lightning Complex in sparking mass evacuations.
The fires started from lightning strikes and have been aided by soaring temperatures and dry hillsides and forest land. Several blazes have merged from Santa Cruz and San Mateo County.
Officials have dubbed them the CZU August Lightning Complex fires after the California Fire Service’s San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit.
They said that dozens of buildings have been destroyed by the fast-moving fires and more than 48,000 residents evacuated as of Thursday evening.
An evacuation order was issued for the campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz and the surrounding areas.
Residents in Ben Lomond and around Lompico near the Loch Lomond Recreation area were evacuated. Many of the shelters were full.
"The fires were growing from 700 to 1,000 acres per hour," said one of the officials and described the incident as "historic in this area". California has suffered dozens of separate fires in recent weeks amid record high temperatures.