Kincade fire blazes on

MJ Johnson

Fire engulfs a farm next to Chalk Hill Road near Windsor, Calif on Oct 27. (Will Wendelman / Golden Gate Xpress)

The blaze of the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, which started Wednesday night, grew to a whopping 66,231 acres and led to mass evacuations of the surrounding areas. Cal Fire officials said Monday morning the fire was 5% contained and had destroyed 96 structures. 

Low humidity and fast moving winds have spread the Kincade Fire, and Cal Fire estimates full containment to be Nov. 7. No deaths have been reported as of Sunday, Cal Fire said. A Red Flag Warning, a forecast warning that conditions are ideal for fire combustion and rapid spread,  had been issued throughout the Bay Area over the weekend but ended at 11 a.m. Monday. Another Red Flag Warning will be issued Tuesday night, National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Walburn said at a press conference Monday. 

“Firefighters are actively engaged right now,” said Steve Volmer, fire behavior analyst for Cal Fire at the Monday press conference. “With this windshift, it’s going to give us a decrease in the fire behavior out there, which is going to limit the amount of spotting, limit flame length and fire intensity.” 

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered throughout Sonoma County up to northern Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Windsor with 180,000 people under the evacuation order. Further evacuations are expected as a severe event of winds up to 76 mph continues to spread the fire erratically. Over 70,000 structures are still under threat, according to a Cal Fire incident report Monday morning. 

“This is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff’s Office can remember,” the Sonoma Sheriff’s department said in a tweet. “Take care of each other.” 

The fire started late Wednesday night near Kincade Road and Burned Mountain Road in Geyserville, according to state officials. By 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. had conducted a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) of the area affecting 27,837 customers in Sonoma County. PG&E de-energized distribution lines, but per protocols transmission lines in the area remained energized. 

According to a report filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E became aware of a transmission tower outage malfunction at 9:20 p.m. near the fire’s origin before the fire broke out. Investigations into the cause of the fire are still pending. 

PG&E has continued power shutoffs for an estimated 2.5 million people in 38 counties in Northern California and the Central Valley. Power outages affected approximately 1.3 million in the Bay Area and are expected to continue until the PG&E determines the wind event has subsided. 

“This PSPS action is based on forecasts of historic dry, hot and windy weather that poses a significant risk for damage and sparks on the electric system and rapid wildfire spread,” PG&E said in a news release Oct. 26. 

Meanwhile, as Northern California burned, fires cropped up throughout the state, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency. The Tick fire burning in Santa Clarita near Los Angeles County increased to 65% containment by Sunday. The Getty fire off the Interstate 405 in Los Angeles burned over 400 acres Sunday night. The Glencove fire erupted near Carquinez Bridge in Vallejo Sunday prompting immediate evacuations of Crockett and shutting down Interstate-80. 

“We are deploying every resource available, and are coordinating with numerous agencies as we continue to respond to these fires. It is critical that people in evacuation zones heed the warnings from officials and first responders, and have the local and state resources they need as we fight these fires,” Newsom said.