As wind speeds in Northern California intensified Sunday, firefighters across the state made an effort to save the city of Windsor, only 13 miles south from the origin of the Kincade fire.
PG&E found a transmission tower malfunctioning seven minutes before fire broke out Wednesday evening in area near the tower, according to a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission. PG&E reported it’s investigating the origin of the fire.
The Kincade fire spread to 74,324 acres in four days and is 15% contained, according to a Monday night update from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The mandatory evacuation zone stretches down as far west as the coastline and as far south as Two Rock.
The town of Windsor was draped in smoke from the fire only a few miles away. Despite police closing off roads, several residents drove into the nearly empty city to check on their homes. Although officials urged residents to evacuate the Windsor Saturday, some chose to remain.
“I’m just waiting to see the flames,” said Javier Licea, a Windsor resident riding his bicycle in the smoke. “I can’t just leave my house, I have a lot of stuff in there … All my three cars are ready to go as soon as I see the flames get closer.”
The Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, used as an evacuation center, as of publication, is right on the edge of the expanded mandatory evacuation zone.
“It’s a wind-driven fire, not a temperature driven fire,” Lisa Hardy, an 11-year firefighter from Kenwood’s Station 31 said.
Sunday morning, Windsor resident Gerald Cox walked with his dog back to his home a mile away on the hills near Foothill Regional Park. The previous night, firefighters told him to leave the area so he went to stay with his mother who lived a mile away.
Firefighters used Cox’s house as a “battleground” on Saturday. They were determined to stop the fire from rolling down the hill and into the city, When Cox arrived, firefighters were putting out small flames that appeared to spring up from underground. Although his backyard was black, Cox’s house remained undamaged.
“I feel grateful but surprised to the extent of the damage but I was here when the fire hit and it was a frontal assault with embers flying. The firefighters chose this spot and really put the personnel to stop it, so it’s all good,” Cox said. “Nobody in the neighborhood’s house[s] got burned down.”
Fire stations from all over California and Nevada’s Division of Forestry sent fire engines to help contain the fire.
“When the fire started moving this way, they rallied the resources and got them in and stopped it from coming into town,” Hardy said.
The increase in wind speed, predicted to start Saturday night, didn’t arrive until Sunday morning, giving firefighters more time to prepare.
On the other side of the park, on Chalk Hill Road, home to several vineyards, firefighters were still battling flames that had in some places reached the other side of the road. Up in the hills, orange lines of fire could be seen at night as the fire continued moving south.