GEYSERVILLE (CBS SF) — Despite the advantage of calm winds most of the day Friday, crews made little headway in containing the destructive Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, which grew to 23,700 acres and remained at five percent containment.
New evacuation orders were and warnings were issued Friday evening for communities in Sonoma and Lake Counties, indicating strong winds had pushed the blaze east.
Cal Fire issued mandatory evacuation orders for the following areas of Sonoma County, which includes parts of Alexander and Knights Valley:
- Ida Clayton Rd. north to Highland Ranch Rd. at Campbell Rd.
- East of Hwy 101 between Asti Rd. and Alexander Valley Rd.
- To the Mendocino and Lake County line, including Lakeview Road and extending south along the Lake/Sonoma County Line to Ida Clayton Road
Cal Fire announced evacuation warnings for the following communities in Lake County:
- Gifford Springs
- Whispering Pines
- Anderson Springs
- Adams Springs
The Sonoma County Sheriff is advising people to use Highway 101 south to evacuate if they can safely get to the roadway.
Cal Fire officials said that there were 600 structures currently threatened by the Kincade Fire. So far, the fire has destroyed 49 structures including 21 homes, winery buildings and vineyards in
California’s picturesque wine country.
Officials said earlier Friday the current evacuations were holding at 2,000 residents. Cal Fire and the Sonoma County Sheriff reported first responders having some tense moments with some evacuated residents and asked for locals to remain patient as the danger in the evacuated areas continues.
An inversion layer during the earlier part of the day helped keep the fire from growing, but later in the afternoon the plume of smoke being produced increased significantly as winds stoked the fire.
Cal Fire confirmed that a firefighter was injured in the Pine Flatt Road area. At around 6:20 p.m., a firefighter was involved in a fire shelter deployment while attempting to get two civilians to safety, Cal Fire said. As they were evacuating, flames intensified and the firefighter deployed his fire shelter, shielding the evacuees from the flames.
All three people were transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital. Their injuries were determined to be non-life-threatening.
— Andria Borba (@AndriaKPIX) October 26, 2019
Along Red Winery Road in Geyserville, smoldering ruins of homes and other structures bore witness to the ferocity of the flames from the wildfire which erupted late Wednesday. No deaths or injuries were reported but the lane was now filled with broken dreams and charred mementos.
Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said Friday 21 homes and 28 out-buildings were lost in the Kincade Fire since Wednesday night.
Essick said no lootings have been reported and 50 sheriff’s deputies are patrolling the burn and evacuated areas.
Essick also urged county residents to stay home during PG&E’s anticipated power shutoff and high wind event that is expected to occur Saturday and Sunday. Essick said roads must be kept clear for emergency responders.
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In the wake of the damage, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Sonoma County. Newsom also said he takes ownership of the power shutoffs that have left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark amid high wildfire danger.
California also received a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to recover 75 percent of the eligible costs of fighting the Kincade Fire near Geyserville in Sonoma County, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said.
The grant will ensure the availability of resources and enable local, state and tribal agencies receive reimbursement for fire suppression costs.
Newsom tweeted his thanks to President Donald Trump Friday morning. The Governor also offered his thanks to the President during a midday briefing on the fire.
Newsom resumed his criticism of PG&E and other utilities Thursday for failing to modernize the state’s electrical systems, saying shutting off power shouldn’t have to be the alternative.
Cal Fire officials said early Friday that the fire grew by nearly 6,000 acres overnight to 21,900 acres and was still just five percent contained. At least 2,000 local residents remain under evacuation orders and more trouble may be on the horizon.
Meanwhile, a layer of smoke from the fire drifted into the San Francisco Bay Area skies, triggering a Spare The Air advisory from local air quality officials.
The National Weather Service has issued a Fire Weather Watch for the Bay Area starting on Saturday night through Monday morning. Forecasters warned of winds up to 30 mph with gusts of up to 75 mph around Bay Area peaks including Mount Saint Helena and Mount Diablo.
Pacific Gas and Electric officials said if conditions developed as forecast, about 48,000 PG&E customers — more than 120,000 people in all — will lose power in Contra Costa County alone starting Saturday night. Outages were planned for several other Bay Area counties including San Mateo, Alameda and San Clara counties.
The utility was also scrambling to determine if a transmission line may have sparked the Kincade Fire. At the time the fire erupted winds were clocked in the 70 mph range, forcing some nearby power lines to be deenergized in a preventive power shutoff.
However, PG&E said Thursday it didn’t de-energize a 230,000-volt transmission line near Geyserville that malfunctioned minutes before the fire erupted. The company reported finding a “broken jumper” wire on a transmission tower Wednesday night.
PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said it was too soon to know if the faulty equipment ignited the fire. He said the tower had been inspected four times in the past two years and appeared to have been in excellent condition.
“That’s a report that’s accurate, I don’t know the answer to that, but we will get the answer to that,” Johnson told reporters.
Kincade Fire began at 9:27 p.m.
According to PG&E:
– at 9:20 p.m. they became aware of one of its failed transmission lines in area of the fire
– at 7:30 a.m. the next day, a CalFire crew member points out the broken line to a PG&E worker patrolling area
Question to PG&E: pic.twitter.com/2kMASKlV1b
— Maria Medina KPIX5 (@MariaKPIX) October 25, 2019
Meanwhile back at the fire scene, evacuees were talking about the frenzied early hours of the blaze.
“You can actually hear the wind come through here,” said Geyserville resident Pat Wright. “It was like a rocket.”
Wright refused to listen to the evacuation orders and stayed to protect his home, despite the urging of fire and public safety officials for the public to heed evacuation orders.
“I just told the fire guys, I’m going to stay because I have things to take care of,” he said.
Healdsburg resident Jason Montgomery said he could see the fire from his bedroom.
“People are bugging out because this happened two years ago and it was a pretty traumatic experience for everybody,” he said, a referring to Tubbs Fire, which destroyed more than 5,600 structures in Sonoma County after breaking out in October 2017.
He wore a T-shirt that read, “Rest in Paradise,” an homage to the California town destroyed last year by another wildfire, the Camp Fire. Montgomery said his father lost his home in that blaze, and he’s learned to accept they might be inevitable.
“If it happens, it happens,” he said. “My worrying about it won’t prevent it… The devastating part is when everybody leaves. I’ve seen communities gone. I’ve seen families lose everything. It’s life.”
Cal Fire said 1,300 firefighters were battling the blaze and it planned to increase that number by 50 percent on Friday.
“People say it’s the new norm but I hope not,” he said. “We thought this was going to be a normal fire season for us.”
Bernadette Laos lost her home of four years Wednesday night, but she’s still on the ground helping, delivering meals with El Coqui, a Santa Rosa restaurant.
“I have my life, my husband and my toy poodle,” Laos said tearfully. She said she wishes she could’ve grabbed some of her most prized possessions, such as her dad’s wedding ring. But she’s carrying through in her time of need, helping keep firefighters and evacuees fed.
World Central Kitchen, a disaster relief charity, also set up shop in Sonoma County.
“We just activated recently. We got about 300 meals with us for first responders and then we’re coordinating with Red Cross to take care of the shelters,” said Ramiro Arevelo.
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