Tracking the Kincade firefight, day by day in Sonoma County:
Wednesday, Oct. 23:
The largest wildfire in Sonoma County history ignited and flames were reported minutes before 9:30 p.m. near John Kincade Road and Burned Mountain Road at The Geysers, the world's largest geothermal energy field. Propelled by strong northwest winds up to 60 mph on the Sonoma County and Lake County line, the fire quickly spread to 1,000 acres.
Fire cameras around the North Bay from ALERTWildfire show just how quickly the Kincade fire grew in the early morning hours:
Because of the fierce winds, Cal Fire called off air attacks on the blaze due to severe turbulence. Wind gusts whipped burning tree limbs and other flaming debris through the air, with embers flying hundreds of feet into the sky, said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marshall Turbeville, who is also Geyserville's fire chief. The fast-moving blaze, which catapulted the burning embers as far as a mile ahead of the inferno, quickly prompted officials to order a few hundred people east of Geyserville to evacuate the area.
In only three hours, the fire grew to about 5,000 acres. About six hours into the firefight it covered 10,000 acres. Thick smoke filled the air along Hawkeye Ranch Road and sent people fleeing, some with horses in trailers. At this point, there was no immediate threat to the town of Windsor, according to Sonoma County Fire District. But an evacuation center opened at Windsor High School.
About 2:30 p.m., PG&E started pulling the plug to about 178,000 customers in 15 counties, including 28,000 in Sonoma County, as part of a planned power shut-off to try to prevent its equipment from sparking fires. Areas near where the fire started were included in the blackout.
An evacuation notice for about 1,700 people was issued for Geyserville and northern Healdsburg. Geyserville's nearly 900 residents and the nearby River Rock Casino were ordered to evacuate immediately, and all roads east of Highway 101 in the Geyserville area were closed.
The fire, driven by overnight wind gusts the National Weather Service recorded at up to 76 mph, spread at the rapid pace of about 1,000 acres per hour.
Thursday, Oct. 24:
With a dip in wind speeds but temperatures remaining in the high 90s, air tankers and helicopters joined the firefight just after dawn. With the evacuation in place, the focus of fire crews on the ground switched from saving lives to building a fire line and protecting Geyserville. But under still-strong wind conditions, the inferno began its march downhill on one of the steepest flanks of the Mayacamas Mountains toward Geyserville and into Alexander Valley, a patchwork of vineyards that produce world-class wines. Several of the first 49 structures destroyed, including 21 homes, were on Geysers Road, Pine Flat Road, Red Winery Road, north of Geyserville along Highway 128. Among them are numerous buildings on the Jackson Family estate, owners of the ninth-largest wine company in America. The Robert Young Estate Winery Vineyard and Garden Creek Vineyards also suffered damage to their properties early in the fire.
By 7 p.m., the fire chewed through 16,000 acres and drew 1,300 firefighters from numerous agencies, Cal Fire reported. With the 17,357-acre Pocket fire from October 2017 still fresh in area residents' minds, fears that the Kincade blaze could top it and become the largest fire in the Geysers area became likely. “The Geysers area has the highest fire behavior in Sonoma County,” Geyserville Fire Capt. Joe Stewart said.
Scenes from the first 24 hours of the fire:
PG&E disclosed to the California Public Utilities Commission that a piece of its transmission tower carrying a 230-kilovolt line broke off in the mountainous area near the ignition point of the Kincade fire. The utility said it did not turn off transmission lines in the area because weather conditions did not reach its threshold for shutdown.