Kincade fire: Mandatory evacuations for Healdsburg, Windsor in advance of wind storm
Here's the latest information about the Kincade fire:
Sonoma County emergency officials ordered about 50,000 residents — including all of Healdsburg, Windsor, greater Geyserville and the Knights Valley to the Napa County line — to evacuate before dark Saturday in anticipation of strong winds, a planned power outage and the threat of the largely out-of-control Kincade fire.
Steady winds were expected to hit the region by 8 p.m. followed by an 'abrupt wind shift' before midnight that could bring sustained winds of 40 mph with gusts between 60 and 80 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
'We are prioritizing safety right now for what is potentially the worst-case-scenario,' Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox said.
Fire behavior analysts expect the Kincade fire to grow dramatically and 'long range spotting to ignite new fires.'
Authorities Saturday announced mandatory evacuations for a large portion of the Highway 101 corridor in Sonoma County including the city of Healdsburg and Town of Windsor, expanding mandatory evacuations already in place for the town of Geyserville.
Mandatory evacuations were also ordered for Knights Valley along Highway 128 to the Napa County Line.
'We want you to start evacuating now,' Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said. 'We'd like you to be out of your homes and out of the area before 4 p.m. We'd like to get you out before it's dark.'
The sheriff said the evacuations impact an estimated 50,000 residents.
Concerned the fire could jump Highway 101, officials also warned communities west of Highway 101 to prepare to evacuate.
Called an evacuation warning zone, that includes two areas:
* The Dry Creek valley to Forestville
* Larkfield and Mark West springs drainage
High winds forecast for the Kincaid fire will actually have a positive effect on air quality, according to information from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The district warned of smoke impacts through Saturday, and a gentle north wind caused smoke and air quality impacts from the fire to reach Santa Rosa and beyond, causing air quality issues in the immediate Bay Area.
'Winds are expected to increase significantly starting Saturday evening and, if there are no additional fires, will help move smoke out of the region,' according to a Bay Area Air Quality Management District release.
Still, the agency warns residents should avoid exposure if they smell smoke, staying inside if possible with windows and doors closed.
The effects could be compounded by a planned PG&E power shutoff, potentially dialing up the heat in residents' homes with no way to cool the interior. The district recommends people seek relief at a filtered air location such as a public library, shopping mall or movie theater. Board member Shirlee Zane said there will be some backup generators at larger public gathering places.
According to a Cal Fire update early Saturday morning, numerous road closures remain in effect surrounding the Kincade fire. The following road closures are in effect: Highway 128 at Geyserville Avenue; Pine Flat Road at Red Winery Road; Geysers Road at Red Winery Road; Highway 128 at Moody Lane; Highway 128 at Geysers Road; Geysers Road at River Road; Highway 128 at Alexander Valley Road; Highway 128 at Pine Flat Road; Highway 128 at Railroad Avenue; Lytton Station Road at Lytton Springs Road; Healdsburg Avenue at Alexander Valley Road; and all roads east of Highway 101 in the Geyserville area.
Cal Fire will host a 10 a.m. news conference to provide further updates.
The Kincade fire grew overnight to 25,455 acres, but firefighters have boosted containment to 10% during a crucial period before winds are expected to fan the northeastern Sonoma County fire that has already destroyed 49 structures and injured two residents.
A Cal Fire update about 7:30 a.m. said the steep terrain and narrow roads made firefighting difficult and slow, but the response has grown to include more than 2,000 personnel, 179 engines, 24 water tenders, 10 helicopters, 53 hand crews and 24 bulldozers. In addition, numerous firefighting air tankers from throughout the state continue to fly fire suppression missions as conditions allow, according to the latest update.
As the Kincade fire continues to rage ahead of what meteorologists are predicting will be a massive, historic wind event this weekend, Healdsburg officials worry they may have to evacuate dozens of people from the current evacuation shelter.
By late Friday, the fire had grown to more than 25,000 acres, and portions of northern, unincorporated Healdsburg have been under evacuation warnings since Friday night.
If forecasted winds push the fire further south and west, and Healdsburg is evacuated, officials as of yesterday planned to bus evacuees to Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, 1351 Maple Ave.
Since 12 a.m. Thursday, the Healdsburg Community Center, 1557 Healdsburg Ave., has hosted evacuees from the fire's path, including a large influx of people from Geyserville when that town faced mandatory evacuation orders early Thursday morning.
Ariel Kelley, president of nonprofit Corazon Healdsburg, is helping run the shelter, and she said 87 people stayed the night in the shelter Friday night. She expects more today, as the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office will be strictly enforcing the Geyserville evacuation order.
Kelley's organization has already moved 62 people representing 15 families into Healdsburg hotels since evacuation orders began. The community center is not near capacity, which is more than 200 people, but Kelley said officials wanted the families to have a more comfortable place to stay.
That may soon change, as wind gusts up to 80 mph are predicted at high elevations this weekend. That, coupled with a planned PG&E power shutoff of unprecedented scale, could further stress resources.
Kelley said via text message Saturday morning there is a backup plan in place to evacuate the shelter if necessary, although no plan has yet been launched.
Officials will talk with the Sonoma County Emergency Operations Center and Cal Fire about 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with Kelley calling it a fluid situation.
'Imagine the news is not positive, but waiting to see if the weather predictions are still confirmed,' Kelley said.