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Kincade fire now 68 percent contained

For the first time since the Kincade fire started eight days ago, it didn’t grow during the night and firefighters gained slightly on containment, now at 68 percent, according to Cal Fire early Friday.

The fire remained at 77,758 acres. Fire officials Friday said the calm weather again helped with progress during the night

“I think you’ll see that number go up steadily over the next few days,” said Sonoma County Fire Chief Mark Heine Friday.

As firefighters further contained the blaze, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office lifted more evacuation warnings Friday for the areas of south Geyserville, Healdsburg and Fitch Mountain, Windsor, Larkfield and north of Santa Rosa.

The remaining area of the fire not encircled is mainly in difficult terrain along the fire’s northeast side.

“Most of the whole west side to the east is all real cold and looking really good,” Heine said. “There is still work to do on the east side, in the hills above Middletown… in the very rugged area through the Geysers geothermal property. It’s really hard territory for the crews to get in.”

Meanwhile, PG&E crews Friday continued restoring electricity to remaining customers still out from the planned outages due to the weather and fire. Friday morning there were 326 customers still in the dark but by early afternoon - mainly in the Bodega Highway corridor west of Sebastopol and near Fitch Mountain in Healdsburg. By early afternoon that was down to a handful in Sonoma County. Several dozen customers still were out in Napa County near the fire area. All of those affected by the planned outages should have power restored by Friday afternoon or evening, according to PG&E.

Another 1,400 customers still were without power due to being in or near the fire zone, according to Deanna Contreras, company spokeswoman. When they were be back in power wasn’t clear Friday afternoon.

Utility crews Friday continued efforts to restore gas flow to homes and businesses, also shut off due to fire precaution. Crews were in Windsor Friday lighting pilot lights and were scheduled to be in Healdsburg on Saturday to do the same, Contreras said.

About 24,000 PG&E customers had their gas turned off and 4,400 now have it restored. Crews are going house-to-house to relight pilot lights.

The number of homes and other structures burned remained the same overnight, at 349 structures destroyed.

With the progress on this fire and growing needs elsewhere, some 700 firefighters were released from the Kincade Thursday into Friday to head home or help on fires burning at the southern end of the state. That leaves about 4,300 still on duty for this fire.

“We want to get them back into the mutual aid system,” Heine said.

The chief expected officials in Southern California would be seeking a strike team from Sonoma County. But the needs here remained the priority, he said.

Check back for updates.

Staff Writer Chantelle Lee contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707-521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

“I think you’ll see that number go up steadily over the next few days,” said Sonoma County Fire Chief Mark Heine regarding containment.

The remaining area that’s not encircled is mainly in difficult terrain along the fire’s northeast side.

“Most of the whole west side to the east is all real cold and looking really good,” Heine said. “There is still work to do on the east side, in the hills above Middletown… in the very rugged area through the Geysers geothermal property. It’s really hard terriroty for the crews to get in.”

The steep, rocky terrain is hard for bull dozers to be efficient and firefighters with hand tools “are slugging it out on the ground.”

With the progress and growing needs elsewhere, some 700 firefighters were released from the fire Thursday into Friday. “We want to get them back into the mutual aid system,” Heine said.

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