INVERNESS (CBS SF) — Local and federal ‘hot shot’ firefighters battled the stubborn Woodward Fire, burning in rugged coastal terrain in western Marin County and fueled by tinder-dry trees and brush in an area never before touched by a wildfire.
In a sign that increasing resources are being directed at the fire, its incident command post on Tuesday was to be relocated from the Bear Valley Visitor Center in Point Reyes to the San Geronimo Golf Course outside San Rafael.
The fire grew to 2,739 acres and was just 5 percent contained as of Tuesday. Areas just south of Inverness Park have been placed under evacuation orders and warnings were issued for an area along Highway 1 stretching from Olema to Lagunitas Creek.
“I know this is challenging,” said Marin County Fire Chief Jason Weber at a Tuesday morning briefing. “I know yesterday was discouraging. We are getting some favorable weather and we’re still not seeing the progress we would like.”
The fire jumped its lines overnight and there were two major fronts firefighters were going to concentrate on Tuesday. On is the northern front because all the homes and structures in range if it goes any further. The second is where it jumped over fire retardant along the western front of the fire toward Santa Maria Creek. Fire officials said if the fire burns into the creek area with wind behind it, that’s the same track as the devastating 1995 Vision Fire and it could be unstoppable.
Ninety households along Silver Hill Road were told to evacuate last night. An additional 2,700 homes in Bolinas, Inverness Park, Inverness, Seahaven and Olema are all under evacuation warnings. Depending on what the weather does today, those could quickly become evacuation orders.
“Use this time to pack a go-bag, charge your devices and put a plan in place so that if we do issue an evacuation order you are able to get out as soon as possible,” said Marin County Sheriff’s spokesman Brenton Schneider. “There is the potential of increased smoke and fire behavior once the marine layer lifts.”
The major challenge firefighters face is the rural, rugged area when the flames were spreading. Firefighters said they have not been able to find any record of a fire burning through the region.
“This fuel is extremely challenging,” said Weber. “Some of the area has no recorded history of fire. It’s decadent (old growth) timber that has never burned.”
The scrub brush is also extremely thick, dry and overgrown. Federal fire spokesman Brendon Cichowski said the brush was 6-7 feet tall and air drops of water were not able to penetrate to the base of the plants.
Thank you to our pilots at a time where it seems our entire state is on fire. This is the #WoodwardFire in #MarinCounty. Our local #hotshots, fighting the fire, captured this water drop 🔥 #CaliforniaWildfires @KRCR7 pic.twitter.com/fJdF3AEera
— Courtney Kreider (@KreiderCourtney) August 23, 2020
The evacuation orders issued on Monday were for the south end of Inverness Park in areas of Silver Hills Road, Fox Drive and Noren Way. Schneider said deputies went door-to-door to the 90 homes in that area to make sure residents were getting out.
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Residents just outside the evacuation zone were taking precautions Tuesday.
“They added to it with a little more specifics,” said Inverness resident Britt Stitt. “If you hear a siren that goes ‘wee-wuuu’ you have an hour to be gone. So we’ve all packed bags.”
Resident Anna Francis has been watching the smoke blow towards her home. While she hasn’t been asked to leave, she’s thinking about how she would do it.
“There’s a lot to pack when you’ve got animals,” Francis says. “You have to have food, buckets and those kinds of things.” So I just want to be sure I have enough lead time.”
The areas that have been evacuated are now secured by the California Highway Patrol as the smoke from the fire blanketed nearby Point Reyes Station.
“Yeah, we left Nevada city to avoid the smoke there,” said visitor Ludi Hinriches. “And here we are.”
Between the smoke, and the warnings from local authorities, many businesses here decided to keep the doors closed Tuesday.
“Well the whole thing, with the COVID and everything, it is very sad,” said Inverness resident Karim Imgvarpsen. “You know, but you have to just trust that it will work out.”
Point Reyes National Seashore west of Highway 1 was now closed to all visitors, including the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Point Reyes National Seashore has been closed as well. Officials said the closure is out of an abundance of caution to allow for the safety of firefighters and to allow for safe travel in the event of a mandatory evacuation.
All park roads and trails have been closed, and campground operations have also been suspended.