GEYSERVILLE (CBS SF) — A fast-moving wildfire burning in rural Sonoma County, intensified by 70 mph winds, grew to 10,000 acres early Thursday, forcing hundreds from their homes near Geyserville, Cal Fire said.
The so-called Kincade Fire was still raging out-of-control with zero containment as firefighters slugged it out with flames in Red Flag Warning weather conditions with gusty winds and bone-dry levels of humidity.
Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean described the difficult conditions firefighters were facing early Thursday.
“The wind is definitely pushing the fire,” he said. “The area has a lot of brush and indefensible terrain. It’s hard to fight…It’s dark right now so we don’t have any eyes in the sky…They (the firefighters) definitely have a fight on their hands.”
Calfire said there was zero containment and the blaze had grown to more than 15 1/2 square miles.
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Juan Valencia warned the high winds and direction of the fire would increase the likelihood of more evacuations into the later morning hours. As of 12:30 a.m., there are no immediate reports of injuries or structure damage.
The fire, first reported at around 10:30 p.m., originated on the Sonoma County and Lake County line, where raging wind gusts are blowing in the area. The strong winds are part of the conditions that prompted Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to shut down power in the North Bay Wednesday afternoon as a precaution.
Evacuations have been issued to communities east of Geyserville, Sonoma County officials said on social media. More than 200 had been forced from their homes with another 1700 preparing to leave at a moment’s notice.
The immediate evacuation order includes all roads east of Highway 128 to Geyserville, Pine Flat Road, Red Winery Road, Alexander Mountain Road and all roads off of River Road. River Rock Casino was also evacuated. Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies were going door-to-door to get residents to evacuate.
“At one point during the night, I heard on the radio firefighters and law enforcement getting together to get people out of their homes, out of harms way,” McLean said. “I did hear of incidents where somebody stated they simply were not going to leave…This is not a game.”
Maria Romo saw the advancing flames.
“I was driving with my friends when we saw this giant red blob and knew it was a fire,” she said. “There was a lot of ash falling on our car.”
There is an evacuation warning for northern Healdsburg and Geyserville. The fire jumped Geysers Road and was burning below it, closer to homes, near 1 a.m.
— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) October 24, 2019
PG&E said they were aware of the fire, which is near a Public Safety Power Shutoff footprint. The utility said it is trying to gather additional information. 27,000 customers are without power after lines were de-energized Wednesday at 3 p.m.
— Andrea Nakano (@AndreaKPIX) October 24, 2019
The Santa Rosa Fire Department dispatched resources to the Kincade Fire but said there were no fires within Santa Rosa city limits.
Viviane Marani told KPIX 5 on Twitter that she could see the fire from her North Bay driveway.
— Viviane Marani (@vivimarani) October 24, 2019
Cal Fire said there were no reports of downed power lines in the area.
Three witnesses who were driving late Wednesday night described the moment they saw the fire flare up to KPIX 5’s Andrea Nakano.
“We were just driving and then there was this red flash,” said Maria. “We all looked at each other like, ‘What is that?’ Living in Sonoma County, the first thing we think is the fires.”
“It seems like it’s something that is somewhat preventable, not to point fingers or anything like that at all,” said Victor. “It’s something that’s becoming almost routine here in Sonoma County during the season and stuff.”
Witnesses Describe Moment They Saw Kincade Fire Flare Up
Sonoma County officials are advising people with questions about the fire to call 211 and only to call 911 if they need immediate assistance.
There are evacuation centers being set up at Windsor High School at 8695 Windsor Road and at the HEaldsburg Community Center.