Firefight continues; $3B in commercial, residential losses; some evacuation orders lifted

Here’s a quick look at the latest fire news from Sonoma County and the surrounding North Bay, including Mendocino, Lake and Napa counties and elsewhere.

6:34 p.m.

Sonoma County officials say 102,000 residents were displaced this weekend by fires still burning in Sonoma County, some with no homes to return to and others merely evacuated for safety reasons. Several evacuations were lifted late Sunday.

Just more than 1,850 people stayed in official evacuation centers overnight Saturday, and many other fire victims and evacuees appear to have found lodging with friends or family, or in hotels.

The six-figure overall dislocation remained stunning, Sonoma County spokeswoman Hannah Euser said.

“That’s one-fifth of our population,” she said.

Even more stunning: Preliminary county damage assessment has revealed 3,819 unincorporated parcels with assumed 100 assumed structure loss.

This represents a $2,016,962,239 loss in unincorporated Sonoma County.

When added to city losses during the past week - at least 3,470 structures, including 2,907 homes in the city of Santa Rosa and 86 commercial units lost - and the estimated $1.18 billion in damage, the total exceeds $3 billion in total countywide losses.

5:45 p.m.

Declining wind speeds and the continued arrivals of additional firefighting personnel have bolstered efforts to gain the upper hand on relentless wildfires that have killed at least 22 people in Sonoma County over the last week.

The devastating Tubbs fire that started outside Calistoga Oct. 8 and tore through the Mark West Creek Canyon to central Santa Rosa is now 60 percent contained, fire officials said Sunday.

Heavy black lines now outline portions of every local fire on Cal Fire maps.

“That black is really important to us,” agency spokesman Jonathan Cox said.

5:22 p.m.

All evacuation advisories have been lifted for Healdsburg.

In addition, the mandatory evacuation in the Wikiup area north and east of Old Redwood Highway including Fought Road is lifted.

Also, the mandatory evacuation for the Larkfield area north of the Larkfield Market outside the fire perimeter is lifted.

4:55 p.m.

A suspected arsonist was arrested at Maxwell Farms Regional Park in Sonoma on Sunday afternoon after he was seen leaving a creek bed where a fire was burning, authorities said.

Three Sonoma County Probation Officers patrolling the area because of ongoing fires in the region noticed Jesus Fabian Gonzalez, 29, walking out of the creek area and a plume of smoke behind him, sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said.

Sheriff’s Deputy John Grohl was called to the scene and extinguished the fire, which was then completely doused by Sonoma Valley Fire Protection District personnel.

Gonzalez was wearing a trench coat and told officers he started the fire because he was cold, Crum said.

Gonzalez lives under a bridge nearby and is well-known to law enforcement, he said.

He was arrested for suspected felony arson and transported to the Sonoma County Jail for booking.

4:30 p.m.

Fire crews will have warm, dry conditions to contend with again on Monday, with highs around 90 and low humidity.

But cool, wet weather is forecast for later in the week, with measurable rain likely arriving Thursday evening and into Friday, National Weather Service forecaster Rick Canepa said.

“Wetting rains are excellent news for the fires,” Canepa said Sunday. “That’s excellent news for sure.”

It’s early yet, but conservative projections put rainfall at a quarter inch at lower elevations and twice that in the hills, with some models forecasting even more, Canepa said.

3:50 p.m.

An online, up-to-date evacuation map for Sonoma County is available. Click here and

and enter your address for live results.

3:10 p.m.

The Salvation Army has added two evacuation centers to distribute meals. Those sites are Elsie Allen High School, 599 Bellevue Ave., and Lawrence Cook Middle School, 2480 Sebastopol Road.

2 p.m.

The mandatory evacuation order for Calistoga has been lifted “in its entirety,” according the Napa County officials.

1:50 p.m.

The mandatory evacuation order for Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center will be lifted at 9 a.m. Monday.

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for all areas around the hospital.

The center, 401 Bicentennial Way, expects the medical offices to offer scheduled telephone appointments and urgent walk-in medical care, lab, pharmacy and X-ray services from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The hospital and emergency department remain closed.

Medical office buildings 1 and 2 will be open, including the pharmacy.

Access to the Kaiser Permanente complex will be at the Bicentennial and Ventura.

1:48 p.m.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of four more victims of deadly fires that swept through Sonoma County a week ago and continue to burn.

They include Carmen Colleen McReynolds, 82, of Santa Rosa, and Lee Chadwick Roger, 72, of Glen Ellen.

Authorities also have confirmed the deaths of two others named earlier by family members. They are Daniel Martin Southard, 71, who died in his home on Bennett Ridge Road, and Sharon Rae Robinson, 79, of Santa Rosa.

Twenty-two people are confirmed to date as dying in Sonoma County during the firestorm.

1:29 p.m.

Cal Fire Incident Commander Bret Gouvea sounded a hopeful note at a 1 p.m. new briefing, saying that “over all, people are feeling optimistic for us,” but noting, “we’re very cautious about that.”

Four fires are still burning in Sonoma County, with others in neighboring counties.

But containment is up and additional resources in the area are helping to reinforce lines.”

“They’re not going down easy, but we’re getting them, and we feel a lot better about it,” Gouvea said.

1:25 p.m.

Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey noted the hard work of firefighters from all over the state and the country.

“When they’re not fighting this fire they’re sleeping in tents over here behind us,” Coursey said at the multiagency command post at the Sonoma State Fairgrounds. “It’s an impressive display of team work and of support for our county.”

1:20 p.m.

“This fire continues to be the No. 1 priority since well into the beginning of the incident,” Assistant Santa Rosa Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal said Sunday morning from the multiagency command post at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in south Santa Rosa.

As other fires in the state are brought under control, more resources have been sent to the North Bay.

“It’s pretty incredible to see, here at the fairgrounds, watching a Redondo Beach fire engine pull in next to a Santa Rosa (one).

“I haven’t seen a base camp like this in a long time. Just the volume. Even the 7 a.m. ops briefing, it’s literally a sea of firefighters all standing shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to go to work, ready to protect these communities.”

1:05 p.m.

A PG&E spokesman says 17,700 households in Sonoma County remain without power, a substantial reduction from previous days.

1 p.m.

Diminishing winds have slowed the movement of Northern California fires and improved conditions for thousands of firefighters around the region, including nearly 3,500 personnel deployed in Sonoma County.

But low humidity and warming temperatures are expected to make for drier conditions that could contribute the fires’ growth even without the wind, officials said.

Moisture levels were expected to drop into the teens and single digits Sunday -which is very, very low, Assistant Santa Rosa Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal said.

“The winds aren’t necessarily going to be our issue, but the change in the weather pattern is a concern because now the fire is going to be more fuel- and terrain-driven, and not necessarily wind-driven.”

The most active fire areas include rugged terrain in upper elevations near Hood Mountain and Sugarloaf Ridge, where sections of the Oakmont and Nuns fires were advancing and expected eventually to merge.

“We’re definitely not going to see the explosive growth like we had been seeing,” Lowenthal said. “We’re not expecting the wind-driven fire, just the terrain and fuel (driven flames) and hopefully that spread is significantly less.”

Rising numbers of hand crews have arrived in the area to tackle the slow-going, labor-intensive work of cutting into the brush and fuel by hand to reinforce firelines, Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox said.

Bulldozers do the job quickly but are limited to level areas.

With hand crews “it’s a much slower rate of production,” Cox said.

12:55 p.m.

Members of the National Guard will be stationed at road closures in evacuated portions of the city to relieve local officers.

12:24 p.m.

Assistant San Francisco Fire Chief Tom Siragusa, a Petaluma resident leading a strike team of five engines working Sonoma County’s Nuns fire, was among the firefighters holed up Sunday in Oakmont specifically to safeguard housing.

As with some of the other homes along White Oak Drive, blackened ground came right up to the driveway, but the homes remained standing.

Siragusa, exhausted after a week on the firelines that began when the conflagration struck Sunday night and early Monday, was posted at the top of White Oak Drive, near the edge of Trione-Annadel State Park. Much of the park has been burned.

But looking over a canyon into the park from Oakmont, Siragusa noted that flames sweeping through the park primarily consumed underbrush, leaving pine trees standing.

He and his team had been keeping watch for spot fires and smoldering ground in the area, but were seeing little to none.

“We’re getting to the point of saying it’s cold, but it’s not there yet,” Siragusa said.

12:15 p.m.

The 47,106-acre Nuns fire was actively burning in and around Sugarloaf Ridge State park Sunday but appears so far to have spared the park visitor center and the Robert Ferguson Observatory.

Several homes - as many as a dozen - have burned along Adobe Canyon Road, however, and more structures along the road remain threatened.

The fire was sending a large plume of dark smoke skyward, and flames were visible in the forest near the park entrance and in Sonoma Creek Canyon.

11:30 a.m.

The Mendocino County Executive Office has issued a health safety advisory for resident returning to evacuated areas.

It advises to wear protective clothing, not to touch debris and not turn PG&E service back on.

Ash is a hazardous waste. To be eligible for state-funded debris cleanup by CalRecycle, residents cannot move or spread debris. Any action may force CalRecycle to declare a site ineligible for the program.

Do not transport ash or debris to landfills or transfer stations.

Wear closed-toed shoes, long pants, eye protection, a face mask and gloves.

Do not turn PG&E service on. Either PG&E has been there and turned the gas on or homeowners must wait for them to do so. PG&E can be reached at 800-743-5000.

11:26 a.m.

Santa Rosa fire officials said the community of Oakmont is not currently at-risk despite a highly visible wildfire burning on the other side of Highway 12 from the vast senior residential community.

The active part of the 550-acre Oakmont fire is in the rugged northern hills, where it’s expected the blaze will soon join the 47,000-acre Nuns fire, which similarly was burning into upper elevations in and around Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

“The thought is these two are going to merge, and it will look impressive at times,” Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said. “But it’s burning away from the community of Oakmont or any other community. There is not a threat to Oakmont.”

The Oakmont fire, which started on Pythian Road before dawn on Saturday morning, ignited amid gusting winds and prompted wide-scale evacuations on the east side of Santa Rosa in communities such as Rincon Valley, Sky Hawk, Mountain Hawk and along Highway 12 to Adobe Canyon Road, which heads north to Sugarloaf.

By late Saturday, it had moved down toward Highway 12 near Ledson Winery, across the highway from Oakmont’s Fairfield Drive, Gossner said.

He said ground crews and equipment were deployed throughout the residential area and aircraft were on notice “so if it did cross we were there to hit it.”

With winds calm Sunday, it was no longer moving toward the south.

“We are confident that it is not going to cross Highway 12 into Oakmont,” Gossner said.

11:10 a.m.

The evacuation center at the Ukiah High School will close today and relocated to Mendocino College, 1000Hensley Creek Road, Ukiah.

The new location will open at 1 p.m.

11:02 a.m.

Veterans Administration operation hours are:

Santa Rosa VA Clinic open for walk-ins and urgent issues only.

The Clearlake, Ukiah and Eureka VA clinics are open and fully operational.

VA shuttle will not run between the San Francisco VA Medical Center and any VA clinics north of the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday.

11 a.m.

All Santa Rosa Junior College classes have been canceled through Oct. 22 because of air quality concerns and the ongoing wildland fires.


The latest fire updates from Cal Fire include:

The Pocket fire is being held on the south and west sides, however it is creeping toward the east.

The Tubbs fire is active on the northeast side of the fire, near Mount St. Helena.

Saturday night’s wind caused the Nuns fire to grow despite monumental efforts from firefighters.

A fire, classified as part of the Nuns fire, started to the area north of Oakmont on Friday afternoon. Firefighters are holding the fire at Highway 12. The fire is also approaching the northeast side of Sonoma, and the strategy is to hold the fire at its current location.

Fire investigators continue to work diligently to determine the cause of the fires.

10:30 a.m.

A week after gusting winds drove flames across the Mayacamas Mountains into Santa Rosa, breeding offshoots that have merged and hopscotched across nearly 150 square miles of Sonoma County, a Cal Fire spokesman said Sunday that officials are “cautiously optimistic that the fires’ progression is slowing.”

After a relatively quite night, winds have died down, allowing a growing number of firefighters now at 3,749 to make headway on containment lines around four separate fires in Sonoma County that they hope to have fully surrounded by Friday.

“Things are improving,” Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

10 a.m.

Family members have confirmed the death of Daniel Southard, 71, a resident of Bennett Ridge Road who is believed to have died Monday morning when flames from the Nuns fire engulfed his neighborhood off the south end of Henry Trione-Annadel State Park. His son, Derek Southard, a recent UC Davis graduate, has mounted a broad and public seach for news of his father, whose car was found charred and melted in the driveway of his razed home. It appears search-and-rescue teams were unable to enter the area until Saturday to search for his remains.

9 a.m.

The deadly Tubbs fire has taken 22 lives in Sonoma County, contributing to a death toll of at least 40 people who lost their lives throughout fires in Northern California last week.

The victims include eight confirmed deaths in Mendocino County, six in Napa County and four in Yuba County, officials said.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said detectives working to track down missing people from what at times has been a list topping 1,000 now have 172 people unaccounted for.

Search-and-rescue crews are still searching burn areas for remains of those who may not have made it out of the fire, and were expected to conduct targeted searches in the Fountaingrove area on Sunday, Crum said.

8:30 a.m.

The 550-acre Oakmont fire that flared early Saturday and sent thousands of people fleeing from the eastern Santa Rosa area, including Rincon Valley, Sky Hawk and Mountain Hawk, remained only 15 percent contained Sunday morning and was sending huge clouds of dark smoke into the sky.

The fire burned down to Highway 12 late Saturday.

It was among the most active fire areas Sunday morning, spreading in mountainous areas southeast of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox said. It was not clear that any structures had been lost.

Other active fire areas included the northeast corners of the Tubbs fire that stretches from Santa Rosa to rural Napa County at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park north of Calistoga, and the larger Nuns fire in the Sonoma Valley, where it has taken a significant toll on Kenwood, Glen Ellen, parts of Sonoma and the Trinity Road area.

Now 36,570 acres, the Tubbs fire was 60 percent contained. The larger Nuns fire, now 47,106 acres, was 25 percent contained.

Nearly 3,500 firefighters are on the lines, including a growing number of hand crews that are moving into steep, remote areas of the fire that are not accessible to bulldozers more typically used on level terrain to build fast and solid containment, Cox said.

In Napa County, the Atlas fire, at 51,057 acres, was 56 percent contained.

The Redwood Valley Fire Complex in Mendocino County was 35 percent contained, at 35,000 acres.

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