GEYSERVILLE (CBS SF) — As the massive Kincade Fire — now larger than the landmass of Manhattan — continued its advance across California’s Wine Country early Saturday, burning homes and charring more than 25,000 acres, a firefighters and the two civilians he saved were recovering from their burns.
Cal Fire said the firefighter came upon the trapped residents around 6:20 p.m. Friday night as the flames closed in around them.
“While working on an active portion of the fire, the firefighter came across two civilians who were attempting to evacuate from the fire when the fire intensified,” the agency said in a news release. “At that point firefighter was forced to deploy his fire shelter, where he shielded them from the fire.”
All three were taken to a local hospital suffering from non-life threatening injuries and “were expected to survive.”
The unnamed firefighter wasn’t the only hero. Local residents were stepping up to help their neighbors. Bernadette Laos lost her home in the fire, but was busy Friday delivering meals to other evacuees.
“I want to help – because I love to help people,” she told KPIX 5. “You help people and they’re doing the best they can – that’s what I wanted to do and keep my mind busy.
She was forced to flee her home in the early morning hours still in her pajamas. Despite losing most of her worldly possessions, Laos was thankful.
“I have my life, my husband and my toy poodle,” she said.
Had she had time what gather all her precious belongings what would she have grabbed?
“My Dad’s wedding, my husband’s wedding ring,” she said. “I know that God is good and I’m going to find my Dad’s ring (in the debris of her home).”
The firefighter was one of the 1,327 personnel battling the massive blaze that roared to life Wednesday night, quickly spreading in 70 mph-plus wind gusts, to advance toward the picturesque town of Geyserville.
By early Saturday, the fire had grown to 25,455 acres and was just 10 percent contained.
The cause of the fire has not been determined, but PG&E has said a transmission line in the area was not shut off and malfunctioned minutes before the fire began.
The utility did cut off power to local distribution lines as part of its program to prevent wildfire during hot, dry and windy weather but not to larger transmission lines that carry power across the state.
That will change with Saturday’s Red Flag Warning outages.
“We have revisited and adjusted some of our standards and protocols in determining when we will de-energize high-voltage transmission lines,” Andrew Vesey, CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., said at a briefing Friday.
On Friday night, new evacuation orders were issued 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 advised residents to use Highway 101 south to evacuate if they can safely get to the roadway. The new evacuees joined the more than 2,000 residents who already had been forced from their homes.
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In the wake of the damage, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Sonoma County on F0iday. 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.
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.