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More Glass fire evacuees allowed to go back home

After fire crews made progress containing the Glass fire overnight, authorities on Monday afternoon allowed more evacuees of the community of Kenwood to return home.

Evacuation orders were downgraded to warnings for areas north of Nelligan and Nuns Canyon roads, east of Highway 12, west of the Napa County line, and south of Goff Road and the burn scar, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

The fire, which ignited Sept. 27 in the hills on the eastern rim of the Napa Valley, reached 65,580 acres with 30% containment, Cal Fire reported Monday morning. Despite hot and dry conditions, the fire grew just 680 acres and containment increased by 4% since Sunday night.

The tally of homes destroyed in the fire held steady since Sunday night with 235 losses in Sonoma County and 252 in Napa County, according to Cal Fire. Almost 22,000 structures are still threatened, as of Monday morning.

On Sunday, many residents of Oakmont and Kenwood along Highway 12 and communities along the Porter Creek Road corridor and the Mark West Springs drainage also were allowed to return as authorities reduced evacuation orders to warnings.

Still under evacuation are rural areas along Los Alamos and St. Helena roads in Sonoma County, plus burned areas of White Oak Drive and addresses off Pythian Road in the city.

In a Monday morning news briefing before the latest round of evacuation downgrades were announced, law enforcement officials estimated close to 2,000 residents were not yet allowed to return home, including 923 people in Santa Rosa and around 1,070 in unincorporated parts of Sonoma County. Around 14,000 residents were still under evacuation warnings for all of the county.

View a map of current evacuation zones here.

Officials on Monday opened a local assistance center in Santa Rosa to help county residents replace important documents, access financial resources and file insurance claims, among other services. The center at Maria Carrillo High School at 6975 Montecito Blvd. is open Monday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In Napa County, Calistoga residents were allowed to return home on Sunday. But new evacuation orders were issued Sunday in the northern part of the county close to Mount St. Helena. The southern edge of Lake County was issued its first evacuation warnings.

The blaze in that area near Highway 29 remained the most active part of the firefight overnight and is expected to be the main challenge for firefighters on Monday. Chris Valenzuela, a Cal Fire spokesperson, said 15-mph winds picked up Sunday night and spread some flames, but crews were able to keep the fire at bay.

Clearer skies in the mountainous region should allow helicopters, fixed-wing planes and large air tankers to continue aiding firefighters on Monday, Valenzuela said.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Sean Norman said in the morning news briefing that crews are very close to connecting control lines in that area and have cut multiple “contingency lines” to prevent the fire from spreading farther west to Sonoma County or north to Lake County.

“As of this morning, they had 400 feet of containment left to connect, and then we’ll have a line completely around (that part of the fire),” Norman said.

In Sonoma County, officials said control lines are holding and there are no immediate fire threats. On Monday, crews were working to completely clear a patch of unburned vegetation along Adobe Canyon Road above still-evacuated areas near Kenwood, Norman said in video update on Facebook.

“At that point, it will allow the fire resources to move out of the way and let the fire resources and the county come in and fix the roads and make the roads safe for potential repopulation,” he said.

The number of firefighters battling the blaze remain at 2,774 as of Monday morning, according to Cal Fire, a marked increase from the around 2,000 firefighters on the Glass fire early last week.

The National Weather Service forecasts temperatures on Monday to reach highs in the mid-80s to low 90s for inland parts on Sonoma and Napa counties. A marine layer at lower elevations below the active fire did blanket parts of Sonoma County Monday morning, which could aid mop-up operations in burned areas near Santa Rosa, said meteorologist Matt Mehle.

The weather service also expects the haze choking the sky in much of the North Bay to likely linger into Tuesday, as plumes from the Glass fire mix with smoke from the massive August and North complex fires burning in Northern California. But the worst of the smoke will likely stay at higher altitudes, leading to better air quality at ground level.

“Most of the population base in the North Bay seems to be faring a little bit better than where they were last week,” Mehle said.

A Spare the Air Alert for most of the Bay Area is in effect through Tuesday, meaning unhealthy air conditions are expected to persist until then.

Forecasters are monitoring a weather system that has a chance of bringing rain to the Bay Area as early as Thursday and into the weekend. However, Cal Fire meteorologist Tom Bird said the North Bay has just around a 25% chance of a quarter-inch of rain.

“Whereas we may see some rain on the fire this weekend, I do not believe it will be significant enough to be a season-ending event,” he said.

Bird added winds should shift to blowing from the northwest starting Wednesday, bringing a marine layer causing significantly cooler temperatures and more humid conditions for both the interior valleys and burn areas in the hills through the rest of the week.

“Going forward we are trending in a better direction,” Bird said.

You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at ethan.varian@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian

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