Glass fire in Sonoma, Napa counties tops 36,000 acres, destroys 113 structures as thousands evacuated
Burning a path between wildfire scars that already have left an enduring mark on a traumatized region, the Glass fire cut across the Mayacamas Mountains into Sonoma County with explosive speed early Monday, tearing at the edges of residential neighborhoods and showering the region with ash and chunks of charred debris under a familiar orange-hued sky.
Less than 24 hours after the fast-growing blaze began on Howell Mountain east of Napa Valley, fire officials believe it threw embers across to the valley’s western side Sunday night, igniting two new branches of wind-driven fire that would need just six hours to travel about four miles into Santa Rosa, Cal Fire Division Chief Ben Nicholls said.
Merged into the Glass fire, they collectively had consumed 36,236 acres as of 5 p.m. Monday and remained wholly uncontained. Cal Fire said 113 structures were destroyed in Napa and Sonoma counties, and 8,543 structures threatened Monday night. It was not clear how many of the structures were homes.
More than 68,000 people had been forced to flee homes in east Santa Rosa and unincorporated Sonoma County, city and county officials said. Another 30,000 or more were under warning to be ready to leave if fire conditions and activity warranted it, officials said.
On the other side of the fire in Napa County, the entire city of Calistoga was added late Monday to a large territory on both sides of the Napa Valley under evacuation.
In Sonoma County, the Glass fire destroyed homes in the Skyhawk and Oakmont subdivisions, and along Calistoga and Los Alamos roads, all on the eastern side of Santa Rosa, although the scale of the losses within the city had not been calculated by Monday night.
Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said the wildfire was particularly punishing to the north side of Highway 12, among rural homes and ranchettes off Los Alamos Road and Cougar Lane, near Hood Mountain and the ridgeline down which the flames descended on their way toward the Sonoma Valley floor.
Destroyed homes and structures also were visible Monday near Highway 12 and Melita Road, including houses along Somerville and Kertsinger roads, north of the highway. Some power poles in the area showed signs of obvious fire damage, leading them to crack and make roadways treacherous or impassable.
South of Highway 12, the fire made its way into Trione-Annadel State Park, threatening homes along Channel Drive and sending puffs of smoke skyward south of Melita Heights, a neighborhood on the far northern edge of the scenic park.
One spot from the fire burned along the edge of the Cobblestone trailhead, a popular uphill entrance on the eastern flank of the park, where burn marks stretched toward the west and into the park. Flames were visible near Violetti Road.
Resting in the northern reaches of the park with his engine crew Monday evening, in an area through which flames had spread around daybreak, Sonoma County Fire District Capt. Jason Jones described running a hose some 3,000 feet up to a group of water tanks so he and the other firefighters could watch and wait for flare-ups.
“What we’re trying to do is hold it at the fire line to try to keep it from progressing to the west,” Jones said.
But the evening was calm compared to the night before, when it was likely dozens of homes had burned, he said.
Fire officials had worried aloud earlier in the day about the possibility the flames would be pushed farther into Annadel and south toward Bennett Valley, and even into Rohnert Park.
“The fire is manipulated by the slope and the wind, and every spot on that fire acts a little differently, based on those conditions,” Gossner said. “So Calistoga Road is a concern. Oakmont is still a concern. Annadel State Park into Bennett Valley is a concern, and really the concern is all of those giving us challenges at one time. That’s going to be very difficult to deal, with knowing that we only have so many resources.”
But the high winds that helped fan the fire when it first started near Angwin early Sunday and facilitated its drive over the mountains into Santa Rosa the following night had diminished by Monday afternoon, allowing 1,466 firefighters a better chance to make progress.
“We are night and day compared to what we were last night,” Cal Fire’s Nicholls said during a late Monday afternoon news briefing. “Last night we knew that we had the wind coming. We’d had the wind the night before. So we don’t have those critical burning conditions that we were experiencing the last two nights.”
Nicholls said crews still had “a long road ahead of them” as they worked to establish lines around the fire, though Gossner even by midday expressed some confidence in the viability of Calistoga Road and Highway 12 as western and southern boundaries.