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Wednesday updates: Glass fire grows to 51,266 acres as damages increase

7:50 PM: Glass fire continues to grow, damages increase in Napa and Sonoma counties

The Glass fire continued to gain momentum Wednesday, growing to 51,266 acres by 7 p.m., an increase of 2,800 acres compared to the start of the day, Cal Fire said. Containment remained at 2%.

The tally of single-family homes destroyed by the blaze in Sonoma County grew to 36, up from the 28 reported Tuesday.

The fire has damaged 31 other homes and destroyed a building that was used as both a residential and commercial space, Cal Fire said.

One commercial building was destroyed and four others were damaged in Sonoma County.

Structural losses in Napa County included 107 homes, more than double reported on Tuesday, and five commercial buildings, Cal Fire said.

Those numbers are expected to increase further damage assessment is done in the areas impacted by the fires, officials have said.

7:12 PM: New evacuation orders and warnings issued for Napa County, north of Calistoga

New evacuations were ordered in Napa County north of Calistoga Wednesday at 7 p.m., Cal Fire said.

The order spanned areas between Old Lawley Toll Road and Pope Valley Road from Ink Grade Road and Aetna Springs Road.

They also included all recreational areas in and around the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Specifically, Table Rock Trail, Palisades Trail and Oat Hill Mine Trial were closed, Cal Fire said.

Highway 29 from Tubbs Lane to the Lake County line was still open for traffic.

New evacuation warnings also were issued in Napa County. They included:

– Areas north of Aetna Springs Road extending west to the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park trailhead on Highway 29 to the Lake County line between Highway 29 and Butts Canyon Road.

– West of Highway 29 from the Calistoga city limit to the Lake County line.

– North of Highway 29 from the Calistoga city limit to the Sonoma County line.

Homes along Highway 29 from Tubbs Lane to the Lake County line and Old Lawley Toll Road remained in an evacuation warning, Cal Fire said.

7 PM: Helicopters aid east Santa Rosa; Mount St. Helena a concern

Clearer skies are allowing helicopters to aid firefighters in putting out stubborn hot spots along the Highway 12 corridor in east Santa Rosa, Cal Fire Chief Ben Nicholls said in an evening briefing.

“We finally have that clean air that we’ve been waiting for all day along to (deploy) those helicopters to start helping the ground troops with the long process of getting in there to mop up those hot spots,” Nicholls said.

However, forecasters expect winds from the northwest to push smoke back over the North Bay, which could limit the visibility for aircraft.

In Napa County, Nicholls said the Glass fire burning near Mount St. Helena and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is burning rapidly through forested terrain.

“That is the most active portion of the fire,” he said. “And for the entire complex, that is the priority piece for today because we don’t want it burning up Mount St. Helena and getting into Lake County to more remote country.”

6:30 PM: Statewide Flex Alert issued for Thursday

To prevent rolling blackouts as temperatures are expected to reach triple digits across parts of the state later this week, all Californians are asked to reduce their electricity use on Thursday.

Power grid managers have issued the voluntary statewide Flex Alert effective from 3-10 p.m. on Thursday.

Residents are asked to set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees, turn off unnecessary lights and unplug unused electrical devices, among other energy saving measures.

5 PM: Shifting winds to worsen North Bay air quality

Shifting winds have begun blowing smoke from the Glass fire back over the North Bay, which could worsen already dismal local air quality, according to air quality regulators.

Forecasters expect haze and smog throughout the North Bay to reach “unhealthy” and in some areas “very unhealthy” levels through at least Friday, when a Spare the Air alert for the Bay Area is set to expire.

Offshore winds had been pushing wildfire smoke toward the ocean, said Juan Romero, a spokesperson with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Now, winds have started blowing inland from the northwest.

Romero added there’s a possibility the shifting winds could bring smoke form the massive North and August complex fires burning in Northern California.

While the air quality remains poor, officials are encouraging residents to stay inside with doors and windows closed as much as possible.

3:30 PM: Sonoma County Sheriff shares videos of Glass fire burn areas

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has shared videos giving a firsthand look at areas scorched by the Glass fire.

This video was taken on Tuesday by the Sheriff’s Henry-1 helicopter above Annadel to Oakmont looking north.

This video was taken by a Sheriff’s deputy on Tuesday driving along St. Helena Road near the Napa County border.

1:50 PM: PG&E cuts power to 3,100 more customers, including about 100 in Sonoma County, in Glass fire area at firefighters’ request

At the request of firefighters, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. cut power Wednesday afternoon to 3,100 customers predominately in Napa County as firefighters continue to battle the Glass fire.

About 100 customers in Sonoma County are impacted by the de-energization of power lines in the vicinity of where the fire is moving, said Deanna Contreras, a PG&E spokeswoman. That increases the number of customers in the county without power to about 6,600, and 8,200 in Napa County, she said.

The 14,800 total customers now without power is back up to roughly the same number that went without on Tuesday before the power company began restoring areas that had evacuations lifted. At the peak of the fire incident on Sunday, about 28,000 customers in the two counties were without power.

Gas service remains off for more than 5,000 total customers, Contreras said. The bulk of those customers — about 3,600 — are in Sonoma County, with about 1,500 in Napa County.

1:30 PM: Firefighters prepare for dangerous weather conditions

Firefighters are bracing for wind gusts, high temperatures and dry conditions on Thursday that could spread the out-of-control Glass fire and possibly ignite new starts.

Officials are aiming to add more firefighting resources to stave of any new blazes that break out in the area, Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said in a morning Cal Fire briefing. There are currently around 2,000 firefighters battling the Glass fire.

Gossner asked local residents to heed the red flag warning issued for the North Bay hills and Glass fire burn areas starting at 1 p.m. Thursday through 6 p.m. Friday.

“Whether you live in a warning zone or an evacuation zone you need to pay attention to the weather and everything around you,” Gossner said. “It’s vital.”

Heading into Thursday, Cal Fire Chief Mark Brunton said winds are expected to shift direction and start blowing from the northwest. That makes establishing and maintaining fire lines along the lower portion of the blaze near Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, and the northern section along the Highway 29 corridor, a top priority

“The trifecta for the spread of wildland fire is fuel, weather and topography,” he said. “And we have all three of those in alignment.”

1:30 PM: Fire crews continue to battle flames in east Santa Rosa, Calistoga areas

Firefighters have made progress battling the Glass fire in east Santa Rosa while scrambling to protect communities in and near Calistoga from growing flames.

In the Oakmont area in east Santa Rosa, fire crews are focused on extinguishing hot spots near homes since the blaze there has receded, officials said. Crews also are watching for flare-ups along Calistoga Road, while fighting more active flames burning along the upper portion of the roadway toward the county line.

Meanwhile in Napa County, the Glass fire continues to threaten the Calistoga region, including the rural community of Angwin. In a morning briefing, Cal Fire Chief Mark Brunton said the wooden terrain provides ample fuel for the blaze, making it a challenge for firefighters to establish control lines.

“Every time we try to construct some control lines the fire is outflanking us so we have to pull back… ” Brunton said.

Firefighters are also working to defend homes along the Highway 29 corridor into the Palisades mountain range, where flames are intensifying.

In addition, crews are preparing for a controlled burn operation outside the Whitehall Lane area to tie into a firebreak at the Sonoma County line near the rugged Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

1:00 PM: PG&E continues to restore power to evacuation areas; no plans for outages due to upcoming red flag conditions

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. reports having restored power to thousands of customers in Sonoma and Napa counties Tuesday evening, while crews are starting damage assessments along Highway 12 to bring power back to Oakmont and Kenwood as soon as possible.

Roughly 6,500 customers in Sonoma County and another 5,200 in Napa County are still without power, according to Deanna Contreras, a PG&E spokeswoman. Those numbers are down from the 15,000 customers that lacked energy to their homes and businesses as of Tuesday and a height of about 28,000 customers at the height of the outage on the Glass fire on Sunday, she said.

Power lines may again need to be de-energized for safety reasons or at the request of firefighters still working the now 48,440-acre wildfire, Contreras said. But, for now, no proactive blackouts are planned as a result of red flag conditions set to take effect in the area starting Thursday at 1 p.m. and lasting until 6 p.m. on Friday.

11:00 AM: Red flag warning issued for Glass fire area, North Bay hills starting Thursday

A Fire Weather Watch set for Thursday for the North Bay hills has been upgraded to a red flag warning.

The warning will go into effect starting 1 p.m. Thursday and last until 6 p.m. Friday for the North Bay hills and Glass fire burn areas.

The National Weather Service forecasts northwest winds of 10-20 mph and gusts of 25-30 mph at high elevations. Dry conditions and scorching temperatures in the mid-90s to low 100s are also expected.

10:40 AM: Two firefighters forced to deploy fire shelter tents in Glass fire

Intense fire conditions forced two firefighters battling the Glass fire in Napa County on Sunday night to deploy fire shelter tents to take refuge from flames.

Neither firefighter was injured in the blaze, according to Cal Fire.

The agency described the fire shelters as “aluminized cloth tents that offer protection by reflecting radiant heat and providing a volume of breathable air.”

A Cal Fire spokesperson could not immediately provide more details and said investigators are currently gathering more information on the incident.

10:20 AM: New evacuation warnings issued for St. Helena area in Napa County

Authorities have issued evacuation warnings for some areas in and near the city of St. Helena.

The warnings cover areas west of Highway 29 from Whitehall Lane to Madrona Avenue and all homes on Whitehall Lane.

A warning has also been issued between Silverado Trail and Highway 29 from Zinfandel Lane to Larkmead Lane.

Residents who need additional time to evacuate, and those with pets and livestock, are encouraged to leave now.

An evacuation center is open at Crosswalk Community Church at 2590 First St. in Napa.

View a map of evacuation zones in Napa County here.

8:15 AM: Glass fire grows in size and containment stands at 2%

The Glass fire grew by 1,840 acres overnight, to 48,440 acres, Cal Fire reported early Wednesday, and containment remained at 2%.

Increased fire activity near Calistoga Tuesday night forced additional evacuation orders in that area, but others in Santa Rosa and near the city’s eastern boundary were canceled or downgraded. No additional structures burned overnight.

All but about 14,000 people have been allowed to return to their homes, from a high of about 68,000 evacuees on Monday.

A small flare-up overnight in the Walbridge fire zone off Sweetwater Springs Road was put down quickly, Sonoma County Fire Chief Mark Heine said.

“It was a small batch of trees well within the fire perimeter,” he said. “The rest of the fire looks really good there.”

Crews last night were able to make progress in the firefight to protect Tione-Annadel State Park and areas along Highway 12, Heine said. They were able to connect some fire lines along Calistoga Road as well.

Wednesday’s focus will be on the fire’s north side off Sharp Road, about three miles east of Safari West Park and west of Calistoga near the Sonoma-Napa county line.

“We will try to connect the dots on some fire lines in that area,” Heine said.

On the eastern perimeter near Sugarloaf State Park, hand crews made additional progress Tuesday and would continue that on Wednesday to prevent any spread toward Sonoma.

“Today we’ll be getting back in there to make sure the eastern edge of fire is secure,” Heine said.

A total of 2,099 firefighting personnel Wednesday – about 600 more than Tuesday – were concerned about anticipated winds that could create havoc on the fire line.

The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch, which is a precursor to a red flag warning that forecasts hot, dry, windy weather that increases fire danger.

Heine said the winds are expected to come from the northwest instead of the east, and possibly as fast as 30 mph.

“We’re seeing fire lines getting very challenging for us with even 5 to 10 mph. winds,” he said. “We are quite concerned for the winds.

“It can really challenge our ability to hold some of these containment lines, especially in the mountains where it’s rugged terrain.”

Firefighting aircraft weren’t able to join the fight Tuesday in Sonoma County because of poor visibility and smoky skies.

But that may change late Wednesday and Thursday if the winds push out some of that smoke. Fifteen helicopters and other fixed-wing aircraft are available.

“If that’s the case, we’ll have our helicopters over (the fire),” he said. “It will be a big airshow on this fire line.”

7 AM: Fire Weather Watch goes into effect Thursday with highs reaching triple digits

As day breaks over Sonoma County, crews battling the Glass fire are continuing to carve fire lines and protect any further fire advancement toward Sonoma County homes.

Increased fire activity near Calistoga Tuesday night forced additional evacuation orders in that area, but several in Santa Rosa and near the city’s eastern boundary were canceled or downgraded.

They’ll also be keeping an eye on the weather.

The National Weather Service forecasts that it will be dry at higher elevations Wednesday night through Friday evening, and there will be localized stronger wind gusts.

With the dry fuels, that is a fire-weather concern. On Tuesday, the service issued a Fire Weather Watch for the North Bay hills in elevations above 1,000 feet.

The watch will be in effect from 1 p.m. Thursday to 6 p.m. Friday.

Northwest winds are expected to be from 10 to 20 mph on Thursday afternoon and will increase Thursday night into Friday morning when frequent gusts of 25 to 30 mph will be likely for the hills.

Any fires that develop could spread rapidly in the hot, dry and windy weather.

Humidity isn’t expected to improve at night.

In addition, a heat advisory has been issued for midweek afternoon temperatures that could peak in the mid-90s to low 100s, in some areas as high as 105.

On the fire lines Tuesday evening, Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies helped patrol the fire zones and show this video of how treacherous it can be.

Because of fire impacts and evacuations, Santa Rosa Junior College will remain closed all week.

And several Sonoma County regional parks are closed because of evacuation orders and fire effects.

Those are: Spring Lake, Kenwood Plaza, Shaw Park, Hood Mountain, Sonoma Valley and Larson Park.

Shiloh Ranch and Foothill regional parks reopened Tuesday.

For more information, go to the regional parks website.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

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