CALISTOGA (CBS SF) — The Glass Fire burning in Napa and Sonoma counties jumped containment lines and led to new evacuations as well as additional burned homes and structures as firefighter worked through extreme conditions Thursday.
Winds grew stronger Thursday evening, threatening to escalate the massive wildfire which has burned for days and destroyed hundreds of buildings.
More fire crews and equipment were deployed in and around Calistoga where winds gusting to 30 mph were forecast to push through the hills Thursday night and Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
The big battle Thursday night was in the mountains north of Calistoga. Firefighters told KPIX they have the blaze contained to the east side of Highway 29. With the wind expected to pick up, the fear is an ember could cause spotting on the other side of the highway, where Douglas Wright has owned a home for more than 30 years.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen. This year has been really crazy — fires everywhere,” Wright said.
Wright is prepared to put up a fight of his own. He has 200 feet of hose leading from his pool to his front yard and was waiting until the very last minute to evacuate.
“If it gets too bad I’ll leave because I can be down there in two minutes,” Wright said.
He has his valuables packed up and ready to go if that time comes. What he can’t take with him are his donkeys Louie and Truman. “I tried to find somebody that will pick them up but they’re not very tame so it’s a real job,” he said.
As of Thursday evening, the Glass Fire has burned 58,880 acres since it started over the weekend and was five percent contained, according to Cal Fire. At least 616 structures have been destroyed, including 220 homes, while nearly 29,000 structures are threatened.
Cal Fire officials said that they expect the number of confirmed damaged and destroyed structures to rise when they next update statistics on the Glass Fire.
One bit of good news that fire officials shared early Thursday evening was that the area of containment that had been established for the Glass Fire covered the backside of Rincon Valley and Skyhawk, with crews making excellent headway in the low country on the eastern side of Santa Rosa.
The fire advanced into areas of Angwin Thursday, burning multiple home homes on Bell Canyon Road and Quail Run Road on the eastern flank of the wildfire, prompting some rescue efforts to evacuate trapped residents, Cal Fire reported.
New mandatory evacuations were ordered in Napa County Thursday afternoon for:
- All areas of Napa County north of the Calistoga City limits between Highway 128, the Sonoma County line, and Highway 29.
- All addresses on both sides of Highway 29 between the Calistoga City limits and the Lake County line
- All addresses on Old Lawley Toll Road
- Areas west of Oakville, specifically the area south of South Whitehall Lane and north of Bella Oaks Lane, west to the Sonoma County line including the 500 Block and greater of Wall Road.
Evacuation warning were issued for:
- The area south of Bella Oaks Lane west to the Sonoma County Line and north of Oakville Grade/Dry Creek Road; West of Highway 29, up to the 500 block of Wall Road
- The valley floor, west of Highway 29 between Whitehall Lane and Oakville Grade, including all addresses on Bella Oaks Lane, Manley Lane, Beerstecher Road, and Niebaum Lane
Evacuation centers are open at Crosswalk Community Church, 2590 First Street in Napa and Napa Valley College at 2277 Napa Vallejo Highway in Napa.
Days ago, Angwin resident Roger Lutz’s sister lost her home in Deer Park.
“The one really special part of that was the American flag was still flying. It was like, Well overcome. I’m sorry,” said Lutz, apologizing as he choked up with emotion.
Residents who stayed in the area despite evacuation orders are emotionally and physically drained.
The Glass Fire shifted direction Thursday, bringing Lutz’s property to the north closer to the raging inferno.
“I could see the flames right there, only a block away on the other side of the hill,” said said Soon Young Park, another Angwin resident.
Park came back Thursday to help her landlord and friend. They were doing what they could to protect their homes from the fire.
“Last night, I didn’t even sleep a minute. Just watching and cleaning and moving all the stuff away from the houses,” said Angwin resident Younan Dawood.
They got some help from Lutz, who lives down the street. He is a veteran in more ways than one.
“I’ve been in a lot of fire fights, but all the other fire fights before this were with bullets,” explained Lutz.
He helped his neighbors set up a sprinkler system that would keep the property near the houses wet if the fire got closer.
“It’s not worth my life. But on the other hand. if I can do whatever I can do to save the houses, I’ll do that,” said Lutz.
I’m hoping that winds will not shift tonight. I will not sleep,” said Dawood.
On the northern edge of the fire, crews were working to save the town of Calistoga where all residents are under mandatory evacuation orders. Just north of the town, the fire briefly surrounded firefighters at Old Lawley Toll Road prompting a shutdown of Hwy 29.
“We have fire that is creating a threat to Calistoga,” said Cal Fire Operations Chief Mark Bruton Thursday. “It has not reached the city limits yet, still on the outskirts of the city limits, it is a concern for us.”
“In this area … it’s a mixture of grass, brush and conifer timber — all of it is critically dry,” said Cal Fire fire behavior analyst Brian Newman. “With the excessively dry winter we had mixed with the long summer we’ve had — a lot of heat and no [precipitation] over the last five months has led to critically dry conditions in the fuel moisture for burning. There’s really no [natural] barrier to burning.”
Newman added that unlike other areas of wine country burned in the recent LNU Lightning complex and the October 2017 Tubbs, Nun and Abode fires, this region has never had a major blaze.
“The area where the fire is burning has no fire history over the last 70 years,” said Newman. “It’s led to an excessive build-up of fuel — heavy, dense brush.”
RED FLAG WARNING for the North Bay Mountains including the #GlassFire, East Bay Hills, Diablo Range and Santa Cruz Mountains this afternoon through tomorrow evening. Extreme fire danger due to hot, dry, gusty conditions. Please be safe! @KPIXtv #kpix #RedFlagWarning #BayArea pic.twitter.com/UUvf84CbBn
— Mary Lee (@MaryKPIX) October 1, 2020
“Warm, dry, unstable conditions coupled with strong winds — the fire will have more energy behind it,” said Cal Fire meteorologist Tom Bird. “The winds will shift later this morning and begin driving across steep, rugged terrain toward the Pope Valley on the north edge of the fire … if they can’t get air support in there, it’s going to be tough to stop.”
Air resources and ground crews attacked the fire just north of Calistoga all day Wednesday, trying to knock out most of it before the wind came in. Air tankers made drop after drop as the fire raced up the hillside just off Highway 29.
- Napa County Evacuation Order Information
- City of Calistoga Evacuation Information
- Sonoma County Evacuation Information
- City of Santa Rosa Evacuation Information
Along with increased fire risk, smoke from the Glass Fire has caused poor air quality throughout the region. The National Weather Service said smoke will continue to be a problem around the region, not just from the Glass Fire but from other fires north of the Bay Area.
Overnight sensors indicated poor air quality and reduced visibility to a few miles, and deteriorating fire weather conditions will likely result in more smoke production, the weather service said.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. KPIX 5’s Andrea Nakano and the Associated Press contributed to this report