SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — Several firefighters battling the Glass Fire were evaluated for possible exposure to carbon monoxide Tuesday with one requiring further hospitalization, Cal Fire officials said.
Cal Fire spokesman Robert Foxworthy said 16 firefighters were brought back to the Sonoma County fairgrounds base camp in Santa Rosa Tuesday morning to be treated for possible carbon monoxide poisoning. The crews were not fighting the fire the time the exposure happened.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard of a large exposure like this,” said Foxworthy.
Five ambulances were called to the base camp to help evaluate the firefighters. He did not release any other information.
“Sixteen firefighters on the Glass Fire were evaluated this morning for a possible carbon monoxide exposure that occurred at a location off-site out of the fire area,” Cal Fire officials said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “The firefighters were evaluated by Santa Rosa City Fire Department in conjunction with the medical staff assigned to the incident. One firefighter was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation and all others were released back to the fire line.”
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One firefighter was taken to the hospital after the evaluation. The other 15 were sent back out onto the fire lines.
Crews usually work in 24-hour cycles, spending 24 hours on the fire lines and 24 hours off.
Foxworthy issued a general warning regarding carbon monoxide as the weather starts changing,
“When we move into the winter and people start to use their heaters and have gas fire heaters running in the homes and possibly cooking and barbecues in an enclosed area, those are some of the ways you can get carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Foxworthy.
The incident came after a 24-hour span where firefighters were able to extend the containment of the fire. As of 7 p.m. Tuesday evening, the Glass Fire had grown to 67,050 acres and was at 54 percent containment.
With Cal Fire damage assessment teams more than halfway through their survey of the burn area, they have reported that 616 homes — with nearly an even split between Napa and Sonoma counties — and 339 commercial structures have been destroyed.
Another 156 homes have suffered some kind of damage.
Evacuation orders were reduced to warnings Tuesday afternoon, allowing residents who were forced to flee the flames in St. Helena, Pope Valley, Angwin except for addresses on Crestmont Drive and Ink Grade Road, Conn Valley and the Silverado Trail-area to return to their homes.
Among those mandatory orders downgraded to warnings were all addresses on both sides of Silverado Trail between Deer Park Road and Zinfandel Lane to include addresses in the Madrone Knoll area, Fawn Park Road, Camino Vista and Via Monte. Also all addresses on the east side of Silverado Trail between Zinfandel Lane and Highway 128/Sage Canyon Road.
Nearly 3,000 people remain under mandatory evacuation in Sonoma County and east Santa Rosa alone, down from the nearly 34,000 driven from their homes early in the blaze.
For many Angwin residents the most recent evacuation and close calls in the past have them questioning whether or not it’s time to leave wine country.
Nina Elliott, now living at a Napa hotel, has had to flee her home four times in the last five years. She says that’s no way to live and it doesn’t look like things are going to change.
“It’s just hotter, it’s drier, less rain and more volatile,” she said. “And we almost feel it’s ‘when’ Angwin is going to burn, not ‘if’ anymore.”
Those living in wine country used to love the arrival of Fall and the excitement of the harvest.
“And now, it’s more dread than anything else and it’s worrisome,” said evacuee Curtis Sosna.
“I love Napa! I love going wine tasting,” said Elliot. “I just loved everything about it and now, I can’t exactly say the same, you know? I hope they can go back to it but I don’t know…I don’t know if it will ever be normal.”
“It is going to keep happening,” said Angwin evacuee Vesna Sherman. “I don’t see how it wouldn’t.”
But Chris Carmichael sees it differently. He moved to Angwin in the 1990s from North Carolina, and says there is risk anywhere you live.
“I love California,” he said. “Yeah, it’s a tinderbox, it burns. But the Southeast has hurricanes, tornadoes.”
In a Tuesday morning update, Cal Fire said the most active firefight was in the higher terrain of the Napa Valley, particularly near the border with Lake County to the north.
“The Glass Fire burned actively throughout the day, especially in higher terrain due to critically dry fuels and rugged topography,” CAl Fire officials said. “Aggressive mop up and tactical patrol continue in areas where the fire’s forward progress has stopped. Crews are working aggressively to construct and reinforce existing control lines.”
But during his Tuesday morning update, Cal Fire Ops Chief Sean Norman was optimistic about the progress being made on the north edge of the blaze.
“All our line held with no spot fires (overnight),” he said. “You saw about a 50 percent reduction in smoke production yesterday and I would expect to see that reduced again today by about 25 percent…Helicopters worked with firefighters to put water on the fire’s edge.”
Meanwhile, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat was reporting that Cal Fire was investigating reports that private citizens started backfires near their homes during the height the fire in attempt to protect them from the flames.
Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean told the paper that his agency received reports of “backfires or something of that nature being put into play by individuals not assigned to the incident.”
He declined to say whether the investigation is in Napa or Sonoma counties.
“You just don’t arbitrarily put fire on the ground without notification. There’s so much danger to that,” McClean said. “There’s always reaction to that action, that’s how serious it is.”
Juliette Goodrich contributed to this story.