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Latest Kincade Fire news: Sonoma County evacuations expand, conditions expected to worsen overnight

SF Gate logo SF Gate 10/24/2019 Chris Preovolos, Amy Graff, Eric Ting, Alix Martichoux

— 25,955 acres, 11% containment (for reference, Manhattan is roughly 14,000 acres)

— At least 77 structures burned (31 of them were residences), 14 additional structures damaged

— Additional mandatory evacuations ordered

— No reported deaths or missing persons

— 2,830 firefighters on the fire line 

— 23,500 structures threatened

LATEST, Oct. 26, 8:30 p.m.: Sutter Hospital in Santa Rosa evacuated

Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital was forced to evacuate Saturday night due to mandatory evacuations caused by the Kincade Fire. The hospital is located at 30 Mark West Springs Road, just off Highway 101.

Patients were being relocated to the Sutter Health facility in Novato and California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, according to KRON.

Inmates at the North County Detention Facility in Santa Rosa were also evacuated and relocated to facilities in Alameda County, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.

LATEST, Oct. 26, 7 p.m.: Fire conditions expected to worse overnight

Cal Fire officials warned affected residents to evacuate immediately as wind conditions were expected to worsen starting at midnight. A fire behavior analyst with Cal Fire warned wind gusts of 60 to 80 mph might blow ashes up to a mile away, which could spark additional fires overnight.

After evacuation orders were expanded all the way west to the coast just after 6 p.m. (see more information below), Sonoma County officials said they might add an evacuation warning to northeastern Sonoma County, but they had not yet decided.

"I’m seeing reports of people saying they're going to stay and fight this fire. ... This fire is not something we can fight," said Sheriff Mark Essick. "It is truly a selfish act to try and stay at home and fight this at this point. You’re putting other people at risk."

LATEST, Oct. 26, 6:20 p.m.: Evacuations ordered to another 39,000 people

Sonoma County emergency officials expanded mandatory evacuation orders after 6 p.m. Saturday all the way to the Sonoma Coast. These areas had previously been under an evacuation warning.

The newly affected areas include: Dry Creek Valley, Larkfield, Mark West, Petrified Forest Road and Porter Creek drainage. It also affects most of western Sonoma County, from Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Road to the north, to north of Sebastopol to the south, to the coast on the west.

The evacuations affect an additional 39,000 people, bringing the number of total evacuees to about 90,000. Residents were asked to stay calm, but evacuate immediately.

"With darkness coming and power potentially going off, we want people to leave now," said Meda Freeman with Sonoma County OES in an interview with KNTV. "We just want people to get out while they can."

LATEST, Oct. 26, 10:10 a.m.: Evacuation orders in place for Healdsburg, Windsor

Officials issued new evacuation orders in Sonoma County due to fears that a severe wind event Saturday night could lead to "erratic fire behavior" as firefighters work to contain the 25,455-acre Kincade Fire.

During a press conference Saturday morning, Cal Fire's Jonathan Cox ordered new evacuations for an estimated 50,000 people along the Highway 101 Corridor, including the entire communities of Healdsburg and Windsor.

Cox said the decision was not taken lightly, but officials fear the wind event beginning at 8 p.m. could cause the fire to spread at a similar rate to when it first ignited. The estimated 60-80 mph wind gusts could push the fire southwest, which is why the new evacuations for residents along the 101 Corridor were issued.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said it is expected to be the biggest evacuation in the county in the last 26 years, even bigger than the 2017 Wine Country fires. Residents are expected to be out of the area by 4 p.m.

UPDATE: Oct. 26, 7:30 a.m.: Fire grows overnight

Cal Fire said Saturday morning the Kincade Fire expanded from 23,700 acres to 25,455 acres overnight. In addition, the fire's containment increased from 5 percent to 10 percent.

There are still no reported injuries or deaths, and the number of destroyed structures remained at 49.

UPDATE: Oct. 25, 10:55 p.m.: New evacuation orders issued

Officials expanded mandatory evacuations on Friday night after the Kincade Fire threatened 600 homes.

The following areas have been issued evacuation orders: Ida Clayton Road (which includes residents on Ida Clayton Road), north to Highland Ranch Road at Campbell Road, east to the 101 between Asti Road and Alexander Valley Road, to the Mendocino and Lake County Line, including Lakeview Road and extending south along the Lake and Sonoma County line to Ida Clayton Road.

An additional evacuation warning is now in effect for communities surrounding Cobb Mountain in Lake County, including Adams Springs, Hobergs, Cobb, Whispering Pines, Gifford Springs, Anderson Springs and those residents living on Ford Flat Road and Socrates Mine Road.

An evacuation center has been established at the Healdsburg Community Center at 1557 Healdsburg Avenue in Healdsburg.

UPDATE: Oct. 25, 6:57 p.m.: Fire grows to 23,700 acres

Cal Fire held a short news conference to update the facts and figures around the Kincade Fire, which has grown to 23,700 acres.

Mostly, officials warned residents to take precautions during tomorrow night's wind event.

"The event looks to be potentially historic," Sonoma County supervisor David Rabbit told reporters.

UPDATE: Oct. 25, 1:06 p.m.: Newsom slams PG&E

In a news conference in Healdsburg, Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom touted the state's efforts in wildfire response planning and capital expenditures on firefighting aircraft.

The pre-positioning of firefighting assets in anticipation of dangerous fire weather, in particular, benefited the state's response to the Kincade fire, Newsom said.

But after the congratulatory language, the governor went on to slam PG&E:

"We should not have to be here. Years and years of greed, years and years of mismanagement in the utilities, in particularly PG&E. Greed has precipitated a lack of intentionality and focus and a hardening our grid, undergrounding their transmission lines. They simply did not do their job.

It took us decades to get here, but we will get out of this mess. We will hold them to an account that they have never been held to in the past. We will do everything in our power to restructure PG&E so it is a completely different entity. When they get out of bankruptcy by June 30th of next year, we will hold them accountable for the business interruption and costs associated with these blackouts and we will do the same with the other two investor owned utilities in Southern California," Newsom said.

"Mark my word it is a new day of accountability, it is a new day of transparency. But I cannot honestly look any of you in the eye and honestly say we can snap our fingers and address a decade of mismanagement," he added, attempting to set expectations.

In response to a reporter's question, Newsom said that while he has been in part of discussions about the cause of the fire, and PG&E's potential involvement due to a broken piece of equipment on a transmission tower, it is too early to determine a cause and the investigation is ongoing.

Cal Fire clarified that 21 of the 49 structures burned were homes, the remaining number were outbuildings. The fire continues to burn into remote areas of Sonoma county that are sparsely populated.

See the full news conference below:

UPDATE: Oct. 25, 10:41 a.m.: Governor declares state of emergency

As fire crews battle raging wildfires across the state, Governor Gavin Newsom has delclared a state of emergency for Sonoma and Los Angeles counties.

Newsom is visiting Sonoma County today to talk with residents and first responders at the site of the Kincade Fire.

About 2,000 residents of Geyserville and the surrounding area are still under mandatory evacuation orders and at least 1,300 fire personnel are battling the 21,900 acre blaze and supporting fire operations.

A livestream of Newsom's comments will be broadcast by Cal Fire at 12:15 p.m. on Cal Fire's Facebook page.

UPDATE: Oct. 25, 9:30 a.m. Gov. Newsom visiting the site of the fire

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will travel to Sonoma County Friday to survey the affected area and visit communities impacted by the Kincade Fire.

The Governor's visit will include meeting with emergency responders, residents, health officers and local and state official, according to a statement from the governor's office.

The governor announced Thursday that California has secured Fire Management Assistance Grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the response to the fire. The grant "will assist local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75-percent reimbursement of their eligible fire suppression costs," according to the statement.

UPDATE: Oct. 25, 7:35 a.m. Kincade Fire doubles in size in 24 hours

Cal Fire says the Kincade Fire in northern Sonoma County near Geyserville is now 21,900 acres with 5% containment. The fire more than doubled in size since Thursday morning. The number of structures damaged remains 49.

The fire has been expanding into very rugged territory, making it difficult for firefighters to deal with.

UPDATE: 6:55 a.m.:  While the Bay Area was largely spared from smoke from Sonoma County's Kincade Fire on Thursday, the National Weather Service expected air quality to to deteriorate across the central Bay Area Friday.

The smoke is forecast to begin arriving in the morning and become more widespread in the afternoon.

"Impacts to SFO may begin as early as 11am Friday," the NWS shared in a tweet.

Bay Area Air Quality Management District spokesperson Kristine Roselius expects locations in the central Bay Area will fall within the low "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" levels (AQI scale) "This is similar to a cold, winter day when we have a temperature inversion and wood smoke builds up over the region," she explained. "We can’t forecast smoke levels beyond tomorrow at this point because there are too many variables (fire containment, unexpected wind shifts, etc.). The public can likely get information about clean air spaces from their County of Emergency Services but that may vary by county."

The air quality will be poorer in the North Bay near the site of the Kincade Fire.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 7:12 p.m.: Cal Fire says the Kincade Fire has grown to 16,000 acres and is only 5 percent contained as of Thursday night. That after it ignited and grew to 10,000 acres in a matter of hours Wednesday night into Thursday.

In a news conference Thursday evening, the agency reported 49 structures have been destroyed as crews battle the wildfire into the night.

Deputy Chief Mike Parkes, Cal Fire's current incident commander, said crews arrived at the fire Wednesday night to find it "roughly a couple hundred acres already and rapidly expanding."

"Because of the terrain of the area, the crews had a difficult time getting around it early on and the fire grew much more quickly in size — in addition to the fact it was fueled by the dry northern winds that we were anticipated to receive," he added.

No new evacuations are expected.

"With the current fire behavior we have now we are not anticipating any [new evacuations]," Parkes said. "However, until we have line all around this fire we urge everyone to be vigilant and be prepared to be evacuated as things change with one small gust of wind," he cautioned.

Current evacuation orders, which have not increases since earlier Thursday, remains at about 2,000 residents in and around Geyserville.

Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick addressed a rumor that had been circulating on social media that evacuations orders had been lifted. "That is not accurate. All evacuations orders and warnings remain in effect," Essick said.

No missing persons or fatalities have been reported, Essick said.

Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbit reiterated that the evacuation center in Healdsburg is at or near capacity and are instructing evacuees to head to the Santa Rosa Veterans' Memorial Building evacuation center at 1351 Maple Ave. in Santa Rosa instead.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 5:48 p.m.:  PG&E says a broken jumper cable on a transmission tower was observed amid the response to the 10,000-acre Kincade Fire in north Sonoma County. The problem with the tower was initially disclosed to the California Public Utility Commission in an electronic incident report.

"Filing the EIR does not tell us where the fire started," said Bill Johnson, the CEO of PG&E in a news conference Thursday evening.

"The transmission line was not among the lines de-energized in Sonoma county," Johnson said, adding "They did not meet the conditions that we forecast for transmission outage. We relied on the protocol and we still at this point do not know what happened."

During the news conference, PG&E's chief meteorologist Scott Strenfel, said peak wind gusts in the North Bay were recorded up to 70 miles per hour.

"The winds were coupled with every dray and warm air and we saw humidities fall into the teens and single digits in most of California where they remain now," Strenfel said.

PG&E said roughly 125,000 customers have seen their power return out of the initial 179,000 whose power was cut.

The utility company says power to all customers is expected to be restored by Friday night.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 4:30 p.m.: PG&E told regulators a broken jumper cable on a transmission tower was observed amid Cal Fire's response to the 10,000-acre Kincade Fire in north Sonoma County.

PG&E became aware Wednesday night that equipment on a high-voltage transmission line malfunctioned near where authorities believe that the Kincade Fire began. In the preliminary report filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, a 230,000-volt transmission "line relayed and did not re-close."

PG&E previously reported that while low-voltage lines were shut down, the high-voltage transmission lines were left powered up as they were less of a fire risk. Radio transmissions Wednesday night indicated power lines were down, though what lines those were are not clear and Cal Fire later said they could not confirm the reports. 

"Those transmission lines were not deenergized because forecast weather conditions, particularly wind speeds, did not trigger the PSPS protocol," PG&E said in a statment released Thursday night. "The wind speeds of concern for transmission lines are higher than those for distribution."

As PG&E continues to turn the power back on for some 179,000 customers Thursday afternoon, the utility company warned customers of another outage beginning Saturday night with windy weather expected to kick up again.  Some of the same customers impacted in this most recent shutoff to mitigate wildfire risk may be affected again.

PG&E said in a news release that it's closely monitoring the forecast for dry, offshore winds Saturday night and may turn out the lights in the Sierra Foothills, North Bay, Peninsula, Central Coast, East Bay and Humboldt.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia shared on Twitter that Contra Costa County may see an outage: "PG&E is planning a power outage throughout Contra Costa starting this Saturday at 10 pm through Monday at 2 pm due to strong winds and dry conditions. Here’s the map showing potential outage areas. More to follow."

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 3:18 p.m.: PG&E is giving the "all clear" for safety inspections to begin in most California counties. The utility company earlier gave the go ahead to San Mateo County and are beginning the power restoration process in all Northern California counties.

The company said they expect to turn the power to most customers back by Friday night, pending any damage to infrastructure.

Meteorologists are closely monitoring another potential high-wind event this weekend, and PG&E has warned residents another public safety power shutoff may be necessary Saturday.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 3:11 p.m.: The County of Sonoma is reporting the evacuation center in Healdsburg is full and are instructing evacuees to head to the Santa Rosa Veterans' Memorial Building evacuation center at 1351 Maple Ave. in Santa Rosa instead.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 2:05 p.m.: CHP reports the following road closures related to the Kincade fire:  Healdsburg Avenue at Alexander Valley Road, Lytton Station at Lytton Springs, SR - 128 at Pine Flat Road, and SR - 128 at railroad Avenue

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 12:48 pm.: Some lines were active: PG&E de-energized their low-voltage distribution lines to customers in the area of the Kincade Fire hours before the blaze ignited, but high-power transmission lines had not been turned off, according to a report from The Chronicle.

PG&E's transmission lines carry electricity at above 115,000 volts to its substations. Those lines were live.

Radio dispatches from the time the fire started indicated power lines were down in the area, but it is not clear which lines those were. Cal Fire later told the Mercury News they did not have any confirmation of downed lines.

The area is home to a major geothermal power plant, which is owned by Houston-based Calpine. Brett Kerr, a spokesman from that company, told The Chronicle they had de-energized their own lines. "We do not believe our facilities caused the fire,” Kerr said, but added: “There are power lines operated by third parties across The Geysers."

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 12:40 p.m.: The vegetation fire at Spring Lake in Santa Rosa, which had been previously reported to be 3-acres, has been contained.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 12:15 p.m.: Winds hampered early efforts: “When you have that kind of wind speed, similar to what we had two years ago, the resistance to control is at a level well beyond our capabilities,” said Mike Parkes, a Cal Fire deputy chief. Parkes says he was told wind speeds reached up to 60 mph overnight.

Officials from Cal Fire, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol are holding a news conference to give updates on the Kincade Fire. Cal Fire cannot give an accurate update on the acreage of the fire at this point, only saying it is "at or above 10,000 acres." The fire is 0% contained.

Cal Fire said approximately 500 personnel are involved in fighting the fire, with 8 air tankers working and the "Very Large Air Tanker" (VLAT) en route.

Sonoma Sheriff Mark Essick said the mandatory evacuation of Geyserville and the hills east of town affects about 2,000 residents.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 12:12 p.m.: A vegetation fire in Solano County has been reported along Interstate-80 near Cherry Glen Road in Vacaville. (Update: according to the CHP, the fire appears to be out, and lanes were reopened as of 1:27 p.m.)

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 11:48 a.m.: Cal Fire is planning to hold a live news conference at noon.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 11:26 a.m.: A 40-acre vegetation fire has been reported in Marin near the intersection of Panoramic and Shoreline highways in Stinson Beach. Video from the Marin County Sheriff's Office shows an airplane dropping retardant on a hillside in the area. Hwy 1 is closed.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 10:10 a.m.: Firefighters in Santa Rosa are reporting the fire near Trione-Annadel State Park is actually near Spring Lake, which is just northwest of the park. The fire is reportedly about 3 acres.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 9:38 a.m.: A second fire has been reported in Sonoma County. According to radio reports, Sonoma County and Cal Fire resources are being dispatched to Trione-Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa after multiple callers reported a vegetation fire near Lake Trail and Spring Creek Trail.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, Oct. 24, 6:30 a.m.: "The community of Geyserville is now under evacuation order," according to the Sonoma County Sheriff. "The Kincade Fire has crossed Highway 128 near Moody Lane and is heading west. If you’re in Geyserville, leave now. Head south to evacuation centers at Healdsburg Community Center or Windsor High School. All other evacuation orders and warnings remain in place."

Find evacuation information here.

UPDATE: Oct. 24, 5:30 a.m.: Mandatory evacuations have been ordered east of Geyserville as the fast-spreading Kincade Fire sorches a parched landscape in north Sonoma County.

Evacuation orders are in effect for all of Red Winery Road, all of Alexander Mountain Road, Highway 128 from Geysers Road to River Road including the casino, and all roads off River Road.

"Leave immediately if you are in these locations," says the Sonoma County Sheriff's department. "If you feel unsafe, evacuate."

An evacuation center is open at Windsor High School. Sonoma County Fairgrounds will open at 8 a.m. Thursday. You can call 211 for information.

The evacuation warning for northern unincorporated Healdsburg and Geyserville remains in place.

Full Kincade fire coverage:

Mass Sonoma County evacuations as officials fear wind could fuel blaze

Strongest winds since 2017 North Bay fires forecast to whip Bay Area this weekend

 Map: Kincade Fire burning in north Sonoma County

— Road closures, evacuation shelter locations near Kincade Fire

Here's what the Kincade Fire looks like from space

— What to do to keep wildfire smoke out of your house

Our full California wildfires page

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