Monday updates: Walbridge and Hennessey fires continue to grow, Meyers at a standstill
8 PM: Walbridge and Hennessey fires continue to grow, Meyers at a standstill
Sonoma County’s Walbridge fire continued to gain ground Monday evening, increasing by nearly 2,500 acres over the span of a day to a total of 54,503 acres, Cal Fire said.
Crews were also able to increase their containment of the blaze to 7%, up from 5% containment Sunday night, the agency said.
Further west on the Sonoma Coast, firefighters were able to keep the Meyers fire at a standstill Monday afternoon, unchanged from the 2,360 acres reported Sunday night. Containment increased to 96% and fire officials said early Monday that they hoped to gain full control of the fire by the end of the day.
The Hennessey fire that straddled Napa and Lake counties stood at 294,602 acres and 29% containment Monday night. The fire had swallowed an additional 4,500 acres since Sunday evening, though firefighters were able to increase containment by about 7% in that timeframe as well, Cal Fire said.
The fires combined, known as the Lightning Complex fires, had destroyed 908 structures and damaged 248 buildings as of Monday evening, Cal Fire said. The fire personnel assigned to the blazes totaled nearly 2,200 people, Cal Fire said.
5:30 PM: Cal Fire chief describes progress on two fires
Cal Fire Division Chief Ben Nicholls said at the afternoon media briefing there had been “no significant fire growth throughout the day” on either the Walbridge or the Meyers fires.
Participating in the virtual meeting from Guerneville, Nicholls said he was “happy to report we’re making good headway,” but also noted the fire had reached the valley floor at Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve.
“We’re working with State Parks to minimize the impact on the old growth redwoods in the park,” he said.
Asked when residents evacuated last week from communities along the lower Russian River might return to the area, Nicholls said it would be “overzealous” to expect reopenings in the next day or so.
“It depends on fire conditions,” he said, adding that the evacuation order should be lifted in no more than five days. “The fire’s going to dictate when it’s safe to get people back into the community.”
Most of the Walbridge fire’s 54,000-acre footprint was “burned over” as flames moved through days ago, leaving some “isolated hot spots,” Nicholls said
The most active part of the blaze is now burning within several 100 feet of the fire’s perimeter, he said.
4:30 PM: Rep. Jared Huffman hails good news about the Walbridge fire
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, expressed relief over the progress reported Monday after “several days of bad news” including “worrisome weather forecasts” of the dry lightning that triggered the scourge of wildfires.
“It feels like we are at the point where we are turning a corner on this fire and that’s good thing,” he said during the afternoon media briefing. “No one should be complacent but we should certainly take heart from the progress.”
In a press release, Huffman announced that his office has compiled a new Wildfire Resource Guide listing resources to help fire victims with their recovery.
“I want to ensure my constituents have the information and resources needed to safely navigate this fire in the face of a deadly pandemic and can quickly and easily recover when we come out on the other side,” he said.
The guide includes information on FEMA assistance and Small Business Association loans, as well as best practices to cope with the coronavirus.
The guide is available at https://huffman.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Wildfire%20Resource%20Guide%202020_FINAL.pdf
3:00 PM: Evacuation orders downgraded on the Sonoma Coast
Mandatory evacuations for the coastal area around the 2,360-acre Meyers fire and western edge of the larger Walbridge fire have been lifted, allowing 814 residents of the region west of Cazadero and north of the Russian River and Jenner to return home.
The evacuation order has been downgraded to a warning, however, and those who choose to go back home do so at their own risk. Residents still need to be alert to changing conditions and emergency notifications, officials said.
Sonoma County officials are setting up a re-entry point at Bodega Calvary Cemetery, 17499 Bodega Highway in Bodega, to be staffed from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for returning residents to check in, obtain materials and personal protective equipment, like Tyvex suits, before going back home, Emergency Management Director Chris Godley said.
Those who do not believe their homes were affected by fire do not need to check in, authorities said.
The affected areas are Evacuation Zones 1D1 and 1D2 south of Fort Ross Road, west of Cazadero Highway, north of the Russian River and east of the Pacific Coast.