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— Evacuations double: More than 180,000 people ordered to leave homes, businesses and Sonoma County sheriff defends mass evacuations
Twenty-three school districts will now be closed through Friday, including Guerneville School District, Mark West Union School District, Oak Grove Union School District and Windsor Unified School District.
The Kincade fire has now burned 74,324 acres and is 15% contained, Cal Fire said Monday night. The blaze has destroyed 123 structures, 57 of which are homes. Twenty structures have been damaged, and more than 90,000 structures are being threatened by the fire.
Cal Fire said weather conditions Monday night will aid firefighting efforts, although narrow roads and steep terrain continue to make access to the Kincade fire difficult. Officials, however, are still expecting for strong winds to arrive Tuesday, which could hinder firefighting efforts again.
All 40 Sonoma County public school districts will be closed Tuesday because of high fire risks, evacuations from the Kincade fire, air quality concerns and PG&E’s prolonged power shut-off. Sonoma County Office of Education’s alternative education, special education and juvenile detention center classes will also be closed.
The office’s Skylane facility will be closed through Wednesday, as will the Mark West Union School District, and the two will decide whether to close beyond then after that.
The Oak Grove Union School District and Roseland School District will be closed through Thursday, and will make decisions on closures after that time.
Nineteen school districts and charter schools will be closed through Friday. In addition to Santa Rosa City Schools, those districts are: Bellevue Union School District, Bennett Valley Union School District, Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District, Credo Charter High School, Forestville Union School District, Geyserville Unified School District, Gravenstein Union School District, Harmony School District, Healdsburg Unified School District, Kid Street Charter School, Live Oak Charter School, Pathways Charter School, Rincon Valley Union School District, Sebastopol Independent Charter School, Sebastopol Union School District, Sonoma County Office of Education’s Amarosa Academy and all special education classes, Twin Hills Union School District and West Side Union School District.
Sonoma State University will also be closed for the rest of the week because of the extent of the Kincade fire and its impact on the community, the university announced on its website Monday night. The university will resume normal business operations Nov. 4. Residence halls will reopen Nov. 2 at noon to allow students to return to campus safely.
A mandatory evacuation order has not been issued, but officials want residents to be prepared to leave as Cal Fire fights a spot blaze near Western Mine Road north of Mt. St. Helena stemming from the Kincade fire, Sheriff Brian Martin said in a video published on Facebook.
“They haven’t been able to fully address it yet,” Martin said in the video. “They’re expressing some confidence that they’ll be able to get it contained, but in the event that they don’t it could pose a danger to Middletown. Probably not tonight, that’s why just the warning tonight.”
— Evacuations double: More than 180,000 people ordered to leave homes, businesses and Sonoma County sheriff defends mass evacuations
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit has canceled train service for Tuesday, which will mark the third consecutive day that impacts to traffic signals from PG&E’s planned power outage prevent SMART from operating. PG&E has begun restoring customers from the Oct. 26 shut-off, restoring about a third of the 970,000 customers across 36 counties included in the outage, and is now planning a fourth shutdown on Tuesday that is expected to affect roughly 605,000 customers in Northern California.
All Santa Rosa City Schools will be closed through Nov. 1 because of fire conditions, PG&E’s massive power outages across Sonoma County and evacuations from the Kincade fire.
About 30,000 residents can return home after the Sheriff’s Office downgraded evacuation orders for the Kincade fire to warnings in west Sonoma County.
Residents of Sebastopol, Guerneville, Bodega Bay, Forestville and other west Sonoma County municipalities are now under an evacuation warning, meaning they can return home at their own risk. All other evacuation orders are still in effect.
Uber is offering evacuees $20 off rides to and from evacuation centers, including the Napa Valley College (2277 Napa Vallejo Highway), CrossWalk Community Church in Napa (2590 First St.), and the Alameda County Fairgrounds (4501 Pleasanton Ave.).
Riders can get two free rides to or from evacuation centers by using the code CALFIRERELIEF19 if the ride costs $20 or less through midnight on Nov. 7, according to a spokesperson for Uber. The code will not affect earnings of Uber drivers.
“Uber’s thoughts are with the people impacted by the wildfires in LA and Sonoma Counties,” the company said in a statement.
Santa Rosa has closed all city facilities Monday and Tuesday and has canceled all public meetings through Friday.
City parks in areas where residents have been told to leave are closed until those evacuation advisories are lifted.
Parks elsewhere in Santa Rosa are open in daylight hours as normal, though the city noted that the Kincade fire’s smoke may hurt air quality.
Sonoma Water is using back-up generators during PG&E’s planned power outage, but it has not experienced any trouble delivering water to customers, a spokesman said.
The water agency has been planning for an event such as PG&E’s widespread outage, which knocked out power to nearly 100,000 Sonoma County customers, including some water facilities, said Barry Dugan, a Sonoma County water spokesman.
Water use has dropped countywide, Dugan said, amid the outage and evacuation orders that affected up to 185,000 people at one point.
The water agency, which serves more than 600,000 people in Sonoma and Marin counties, posted an online notice that “customers may be asked to minimize indoor water use, and curtail outdoor water irrigation to help maintain water supply for public health, sanitation and fire protection needs.”
Dugan reiterated that the water agency has not experience problems delivering water and said the “message to conserve is one of caution.”
Wireless phone companies told the Federal Communications Commission about quarter of their cell sites in Sonoma County are down, mostly because they don’t have power amid PG&E’s widespread planned blackout to prevent wildfires.
Significant numbers of cell site outages also have been reported in Marin (57.1%), Lake (25.5%), and Napa (19.2%) counties, according to the FCC’s daily cell site outage report, which does not include data for Mendocino County.
The FCC noted that the number of cell site outages “does not necessarily correspond to the availability of wirelesss service to consumers in that area” because “wireless networks are often designed with numerous overlapping cell sites that provide maximum capacity and continuity of service even when an individual site is inoperable.”
Cell companies have said they will use a combination of generators and batteries to power towers that lose electricity during PG&E’s planned outages. They’ve also indicated they could bring in portable cell sites among actions to maintain service.
PG&E has said it will try to restore power from its current outage before proceeding with another, similar outage expected to begin Tuesday.
In Monte Rio late Monday morning, Bartlett’s Market owner Raj Buttar and Fire Chief Steve Baxman cleaned out frozen food going bad after nearly two days without power.
The west county community is part of a massive west county power outage and mandatory evacuation order stemming from the Kincade fire northeast of Healdsburg, Windsor and north of Santa Rosa.
“It’s like a ghost town,” said Baxman. “We have a few people. And since last night, more and more people are coming back.”
Residents told him they’d returned ahead of the all‑clear notice because they had nowhere else to go. Some had slept in their vehicles. He also heard that shelter’s set up in other counties were too far away to be practical.
Meanwhile, he’d heard from PG&E. “They just texted me yesterday saying power may be restored any time and they could cut it off tomorrow for the same thing.” Another round of strong, dry winds are due Tuesday into Wednesday.
Two years after 95% of the Pepperwood Preserve burned in the Tubbs fire, another wildland blaze has claimed hundreds of acres on the Sonoma County nature tract dedicated to education and research.
The northern half of Pepperwood’s roughly 3,200-acre footprint is believed to have burned as the Kincade fire leapt to 66,000 acres, said Lisa Micheli, president of the nonprofit foundation that operates the facility off Porter Creek Road.
Pepperwood broke ground last month on a multi-million dollar rebuilding effort, but for now, the Kincade fire has spared the facilities under construction, Micheli said.
“People are in shock. We have to put people first and self-care first right now,” she said. “The next step will be, how do we move forward?”
Todd Frediani and wife Melissa Frediani got home from Texas last night to the news of mandatory evacuation orders for their Loch Haven neighborhood. Bordering Safari West animal sanctuary off of Mark West Springs Road, Loch Haven was spared the worst of the deadly October 2017 Tubbs fire after an heroic effort by firefighters.
As in 2017, Todd was ready to serve as tour guide for the neighborhood, which has special, deed-authorized access to Safari West. The couple took a reporter and Portland, Oregon, Battalion Chief Chris Barney on the couple’s utility vehicle, through the gates of Safari West to check on the Kincade fire’s spread.
Large swaths of the northern parts of Safari West property were charred, and new, small fires were burning.
With again in the area, dozens of firefighters were gathered near the entrance of the Loch Haven neighborhood as part of the day’s defense.
Most of the Loch Haven homes were empty. But Pegeen Johnson and Walt Johnson were home, preparing to defend their property.
Pegeen Johnson moved the wood pile from her barn and Walt Johnson set up pumps with 1.5-inch fire hoses in the family’s in-ground pool.
He said he never expected fire to return to the area. “I would have bet somebody $100,000 we’d never see what we saw in ‘17 again, but here we are.”
Later, Todd Frediani went to check on the neighborhood’s water tanks, two of which are made of redwood. If the levels are too low, the tanks become susceptible to fire.
Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick didn’t rule out additional evacuations if necessary due to the Kincade fire, due to a resurgence in high winds expected in the next couple of days.
“I would say it’s still a fluid situation with the wind event that’s coming up possibly Tuesday,” Essick said Monday morning at a news conference at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. “I can’t commit right now to say that there will not be. We’re going to continuously evaluate, work with Cal Fire, work with their intel to really determine what the best course of action would be.
Essick also met with Cal Fire and county officials after the news conference to “take a hard look” into allowing people to return to their homes. Re-population of areas that haven’t been burned will occur in “somewhat of a reverse order of evacuations,” he said. “We will look at re-populating the west county first and then move our way in.”
Essick said he had no plans to lift evacuation orders for places that had been burned by the fire. More than 4,000 fire personnel are working to contain the Kincade blaze, which grew to roughly 66,000 acres by Monday morning amid a widespread planned power outage by PG&E.
“Areas that have been burned have utilities down,” Essick said. “We still have fire crews in there. People are working. We understand that people are very anxious to get into the burned areas to check on their property, they want to do re-entry, but at this point, we are not doing re-entry at all.”
The west county town of about 8,000 residents has been under a mandatory evacuation since 3:50 a.m. Sunday because of the potential threat from the Kincade fire. The area also is without electricity given PG&E has turned off power because of a concern that one of its electrical lines could trigger a wildfire.
About 8:45 a.m. street traffic and people walking downtown and in neighborhoods indicated signs of life, perhaps unexpected in a city whose residents were under sheriff’s orders to be gone.
Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick noted Sunday that authorities “had really good compliance with the evacuation order” even though some west county residents were skeptical of threat given that the fire still was contained to areas northeast of Windsor and Healdsburg.
“Obviously some people are staying behind,” Essick said, noting most of those live in west county.
U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, standing next to fellow Northern California Rep. Mike Thompson, emphasized that wildfire evacuees should seek shelter and services without fear of immigration enforcement action.
The Department of Homeland Security on Friday issued a statement that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection would not conduct immigration enforcement actions associated with wildfire-related evacuations or sheltering, “except in the event of a serious public safety threat.”
Huffman, speaking amid evacuation orders affecting about 185,000 Sonoma County residents, reiterated that “everyone seeking services and shelter from the immigrant community should do so with confidence that there will not be immigration enforcement activity.”
Crews early Monday started inspecting power lines as a step toward getting power turned back in some areas, said Deanna Contreras, PG&E spokeswoman.
Contreras Monday said the goal was to get power back to Sonoma County residents — not included in the fire footprint — by late Monday or early Tuesday. Some 93,000 customers, or 300,000 people, were included in the planned power outage.
Monday the winds had eased enough that a 6 a.m. “all clear” alert was issued, giving the utility crews the nod to start line inspections.
Natural gas also was turned off by the company to about 22,000 customers as part of the fire‑related safety step. When that would be restored was under review, she said.
"We want to restore power even if it's for a little bit ... so people can charge things and have a sense of normalcy at least for a little bit," she said.
The company hasn't decided whether it will shut off electricity to customers ahead of Tuesday's winds.
Due to crowding at many of the evacuation shelters across Sonoma and Marin counties, San Francisco Mayor London Breed opened a 200-person shelter at St. Mary’s Cathedral, at 1111 Gough St., in San Francisco.
For more information about current evacuation centers and those currently at capacity, visit: https://socoemergency.org/home/emergency/evacuation-centers.
Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick Monday said plans were underway to allow at least some fire evacuees back home in places that haven't been burned.
At a Kincade fire press conference Monday morning, the sheriff said west county residents likely would be allowed home first, then Santa Rosa and then others closer to the fire area.
Nearly 200,000 county residents were included in the evacuation orders that including Geyserville, Healdsburg and Windsor, near the fire, and then was expanded to most of western Sonoma County and large areas of Santa Rosa and greater Santa Rosa.
But details hadn’t been determined and the sheriff said alerts would be issued as soon as a plan was in place.
The sheriff also said one person had been arrested during the night in the Larkfield‑Wikiup area. The person wasn’t a resident and may have been prowling, he said.
Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport remains closed Monday morning, and all flights have been canceled for the day.
The regional airstrip remains in an evacuation area, and as fire moved into the Shiloh area Sunday night, Cal Fire initiated temporary flight restrictions, and the Federal Aviation Administration also closed the airspace to all private and commercial flights, according to Jon Stout, the airport manager.
At 8 p.m. Monday, the airport will work with other county staff to determine if tomorrow morning’s slate of nine departing and eight arriving flights will also be canceled, Stout said. Ticketed passengers should contact their airlines to reroute to Oakland, San Francisco or San Jose, or to reschedule to Santa Rosa once the airport reopens.
Cal Fire operates one of its 13 air attack bases out of the regional airfield, but heavy smoke impacting visibility may limit air tankers from refilling and taking back off with fire retardant. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office continues to use the landing strip for its Henry 1 helicopter, as does REACH for its medical chopper.
Many regional transit services are also shut down Monday, including SMART commuter rail, Santa Rosa CityBus and Sonoma County Transit bus services. Petaluma Transit is still operating, but expects delays. Service is free during the countywide emergency.
Overnight wind gusts reached 70 mph on Mount Saint Helena, with the highest winds recorded between 9 p.m. and midnight, National Weather Service meteorologist Spencer Tangen said Monday.
The bulk of the high wind readings in Sonoma County were in northern Santa Rosa, where the Kincade fire is threatening to burn into areas destroyed two years ago in the deadly Tubbs fire of October 2017.
There, gusts reached 20-30 mph, while wind gusts at higher elevations still reached 40 mph by 6 a.m. and by 8 a.m. had tapered down to 30 mph.
The downward trend is expected to continue Monday, giving the 4,000-plus firefighters a reprieve and a chance to again reestablish containment in key areas.
“The unfortunate thing is, as we go into Tuesday, we do expect winds to pick back up again,” Tangen said.
Tuesday morning will bring gusts along the higher peaks, and by evening those winds will reach 60-70 mph, with 20-30 mph gusts – reaching 40 mph in places – in the valleys, Tangen said.
A few homes apparently burned Sunday night in Shiloh Estates and the Kincade fire’s impact grew Sunday to Monday, now listed at more than 66,000 acres, mostly unchecked with containment still at 5 percent.
Fire also burned early Monday on Safari West and Pepperwood Preserve property in the Mark West Springs corridor and fire officials feared it could take a new direction, running up nearby Mount St. Helena in the next few days, threatening Calistoga and Middletown, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marshall Turbeville said Monday.
While Geyserville and Cloverdale remained threatened by the northern arm of the fire, that threat eased Monday morning with the calmed winds and more active fire elsewhere.
Healdsburg also remained threatened but that also was diminished Monday. The closest fire to town was burning across the Russian River from Fitch Mountain. Current, more serious issues included fire burning above Windsor neighborhoods, threatening the town of Windsor, as well as Wikiup and Larkfield communities in Santa Rosa.
Cal Fire’s morning update included that 96 structures have been destroyed, up by two from Sunday night’s tally.
And more help continued to arrive at base camp at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, with 4,150 firefighters now on the effort. There also are 10 helicopters, 444 fire engines, 53 dozers and 30 water tenders involved.
The fire’s western flank was still holding near Highway 101 between Healdsburg and Windsor. That’s a major line for firefighters wanting to keep it from jumping the highway and taking off into western Sonoma County.
North of Santa Rosa the fire burned northwest of Franz Valley Road and had moved onto Safari West property and Pepperwood Preserve, Turbeville said. Initial information was that flames hadn’t reach buildings, although that wasn’t confirmed early Monday.
That’s the route the Tubbs fire took two years ago to race into Santa Rosa and burn thousands of homes.
The lull in weather means the fire wasn’t being pushed toward Santa Rosa but it could go east. Flames crossed rural Ida Clayton Road near Mount St. Helena’s western flank and fire behavior means it will want to run uphill, Turbeville said.
“When the winds surface tomorrow it could threaten Calistoga and also get close to Middletown,” he said.
Authorities have reopened the northbound lanes of Highway 101 in northern Sonoma County near the Kincade fire, state Sen. Mike McGuire wrote on Twitter Monday morning. McGuire noted the southbound lanes of the vital north-south roadway reopened Sunday evening.
The CHP warned drivers to watch for emergency vehicles on the highway and not to go around traffic cones on blocked roads. Also the offramps remained closed from Airport Boulevard to Dry Creek due to the mandatory evacuation orders.
Firefighters faced off with the Kincade fire on the edge of a Windsor neighborhood late Sunday into Monday and beat back the flames, holding back an arm of the huge blaze as it menaced Windsor, Wikiup and Larkfield.
The threat to the residential areas caused officials late Sunday night to issue another emergency evacuation notice for people still in the area — to get out due to the approaching fire. Dispatch reports indicated flames had gotten within 100 yards of homes on Lockwood Drive west of Shiloh Ridge in Windsor.
It was a major, but successful firefight, said Sonoma County Fire Chief Mark Heine in a brief text message before going into a fire update meeting.
Crews held the fire line, said retired Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum who came out of retirement to help with the fire.
“We had that run up to Lockwood (Drive),” Crum said. “They got it tampered down. The firefighters are doing an amazing job keeping it out of the neighborhoods.”
Winds should ease Monday and the Red Flag Warning was set to end at 11 a.m., indicating a possible break for firefighters on the raging Kincade fire threatening Windsor, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa.
An update from Cal Fire wasn’t available early Monday but as Sunday night the fire was at almost 55,000 acres and with containment just at 5 percent.
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The weather break could be brief. Strong winds are due to return Tuesday into Wednesday, bringing gusts of 60-70 mph.
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