Fire to ice in wine country: Kincade fire containment grows, just in time for a frost
A week after it started, the Kincade fire that roared through Sonoma County wine country was under control Thursday as more evacuations were lifted.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the blaze was 60% contained after burning 76,000 acres and nearly 100 structures. It was a big fire but far less destructive than the 2017 wine country fire storms that destroyed thousands of homes and killed dozens.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which had shut off power to millions Tuesday in anticipation of the extreme fire danger, has now restored service to most of its customers. Just 36,745 remain without electricity, and the utility continues to inspect lines so it can restore additional power, PG&E said.
But the extreme winds that fanned the fire were replaced by freezing temperatures. The National Weather Service issued a frost warning for parts of Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties, with temperatures dropping to the 30s in some cities and the 20s in hillside locations. Healdsburg, one of the cities threatened by the fire, recorded a 26-degree low Thursday morning.
The mandatory evacuation order for the towns of Windsor and Healdsburg were downgraded to an evacuation warning, meaning that although the area is still at risk, residents could come back, according to Sonoma County sheriff’s officials.
The Santa Rosa Police Department announced just after noon Wednesday that city residents could safely return home.
Despite the fire’s massive scale and the large number of structures that have burned — 94 homes have been destroyed — no deaths have been reported in the blaze. Fire officials say that’s partly due to a proactive approach and vast evacuation zones that have taken many out of harm’s way.
California Highway Patrol aircraft has been assisting PG&E with power line inspections in an effort to more quickly restore power, he said.
Cal Fire Chief Tom Porter said fire activity across the state will likely remain high until winter rains set in.
Heidi Santos lost power at her home over the weekend.
The mother of two was camped out at a resource tent outside a Catholic church in St. Helena on Tuesday morning while her 8- and 10-year-old children played at a nearby Boys and Girls Club. As it happened, the tent where she charged her cellphone was provided by PG&E.
Without electricity, Santos couldn’t cook for her young son, who is allergic to a long list of foods — soy, eggs, gluten, almonds and fish.
What was in her refrigerator had long since spoiled, and Santos’ only option now was buying food from restaurants or nonperishable items from the market. To make matters worse, she hadn’t worked in two days because the home where she worked as a housekeeper had been evacuated.
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