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Thursday updates: Glass fire grows to 58,880 acres

Wind and heat may be today’s keys for the fight against Glass fire in Sonoma and Napa counties

7:15 PM: Glass fire gains another 2,100 acres Thursday, containment stays at 5%

The Glass fire extended its reach by nearly 2,100 acres over the course of the day Thursday, growing to 58,880 acres by 7 p.m., Cal Fire said. Containment remained at 5%.

The fire had destroyed at least 153 homes in Napa County and an additional 67 in Sonoma County, Cal Fire said.

The number of people sent to fight the fire reached more than 2,500 people by Thursday afternoon, up by 400 compared to the day prior, Cal Fire said.

Fire activity picked up on the eastern zone of the fire Thursday morning, forcing firefighters to protect buildings near the community of Angwin and Old Lawley Toll Road, Cal Fire Division Chief Ben Nicholls said during an afternoon briefing posted online.

The Glass fire was more tame on the Sonoma County side of the blaze Thursday morning, though incoming northwest winds threaten to stress fire lines established in the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, he said.

“If that fire gets across the line that we have established down there, it’s going to create a much larger area that we’re going to have to fall back to to capture the ridges that we need to contain this fire,” Nicholls said. “That’s the largest concern on the west zone.”

6:25 PM: Spare the Air Alert extended through early next week

A Spare the Air Alert for the Bay Area was extended until Tuesday as smoky skies are expected to deteriorate the region’s air quality for several days, the Bay Area Air Quality District said.

Winds were pushing smoke from several wildfires burning in Northern California into the region, where the Glass fire was already sending a blanket of smoke into the air, district officials said Thursday morning.

Indoor and outdoor wood burning is banned during the Spare the Air period, the district said.

4:30 PM: Firefighters work to protect communities as winds threaten to spread flames

As winds begin to bear down on the North Bay mountains, firefighters are working to fortify fire breaks to prevent the out-of-control Glass fire from spreading to more homes.

In Sonoma County, the southern front of the blaze is now firefighters’ top concern, with winds from the north threatening to fan flames toward the communities of Kenwood and Glen Ellen.

North of those areas, firefighters forged a fire line from a high point in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park down to the valley floor, Cal Fire Chief Mark Brunton said in an afternoon briefing.

“With this flow of wind, that is a concern for us,” Brunton said. “I have about a 50-50 percent confidence that line is going to hold, so there’s a potential threat to the community of Kenwood and potentially even Glen Ellen.”

In east Santa Rosa along Highway 12, firefighters continue to mop up burn areas and extinguish hot spots now that flames have mostly receded. Fire crews are also mopping up Calistoga Road in Santa Rosa and have halted flames along the upper portion of the roadway.

In Napa County, the fire has hit the outskirts of the rural community of Angwin, officials said, and fire crews are working to contain the blaze there.

A backfiring operation along the southeastern portion of the blaze was ultimately unsuccessful, and flames are now pushing toward the Oakville community, officials said.

The fire has also forced the closure of both lanes of Highway 29 above Calistoga.

Billy See, a Cal Fire incident commander, said that even though winds are blowing south, there’s still concern the blaze above Calistoga could eventually reach Lake County to the north.

“With the terrain out there, the drainages, the heavy fuel loading, and the dry conditions we’ve had, once that wind subsides, it’s still going to be a major concern because there’s lots of areas that we could have uphill runs toward the Lake County area,” he said.

4:10 PM: Flames intensify near Mount St. Helena

Hi-lo sirens rang out Thursday afternoon along the higher elevations of Highway 29 near Mount St. Helena as the Napa Police and sheriffs deputies from multiple counties moved to evacuate the area.

Winds were intensifying and flames billowed from tree tops along the slopes northeast of Calistoga.

Overhead, helicopters crisscrossed the empty upvalley town, making water runs to the mountain top despite such poor visibility because of the dense smoke settling from the nearby plumes.

The fire had raged by Old Lawley Toll Road since the morning and the roads had become impassable, limiting ground resources that could provide additional support from the valley floor. At least one resident that had flouted evacuation orders was stuck waiting for the road to be cleared and was advised to shelter in place, according to firefighters.

4 PM: Highway 29 north of Calistoga closed in both directions

Highway 29 north of Calistoga has been closed in both directions due to the Glass fire.

The closure is between Bradford Road, Middletown, and Tubbs Lane in Calistoga. There is no estimate for reopening.

Since Wednesday, the area around Mount St. Helena has become one of the more active fronts of the blaze.

2:45 PM: Heat advisory extended through Friday

The National Weather Service has extended a heat advisory for most of the North Bay through 8 p.m. Friday.

Temperatures are expected to be in the low 90s to low 100s during afternoon hours for most inland areas of the North Bay. However, forecasters say wildfire smoke clouding the sky could keep temperatures lower than originally expected.

Officials are encouraging residents to limit outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day. In areas with unhealthy air quality due to smoke, it’s recommended that people stay inside as much as possible with doors and windows closed.

1:45 PM: Evacuation orders issued for some areas north of Calistoga

Authorities have issued an evacuation order for areas of Napa County north of Calistoga, according to Cal Fire.

A mandatory evacuation order is now in effect for all areas north of the Calistoga city limits between Highway 128, the Sonoma County line and Highway 29.

The order also covers all addresses on both sides of Highway 29 between the Calistoga city limits and the Lake County line, and all addresses on Old Lawley Toll Road.

All current orders remain in effect. View a map of current evacuation zones in Napa County here.

1:30 PM: Watch Cal Fire’s press briefing

1:15 PM: Evacuation orders and warnings issued for some of Napa County

Authorities have issued an evacuation order for some parts of Napa County near the southern front of the Glass fire, according to Cal Fire.

A mandatory evacuation order is now in effect for the area south of the end of South Whitehall Lane and north of the end of Bella Oaks Lane, and west to the Sonoma County line, including the 500 block and greater of Wall Road.

In addition, an evacuation warning has been issued for south of the end of Bella Oaks Lane west to the Sonoma County line north of Oakville Grade and Dry Creek Road, west of Highway 29, up to the 500 block of Wall Road.

The valley floor, west of Highway 29 between Whitehall Lane and Oakville Grade, including all addresses on Bella Oaks Lane, Manley Lane, Beerstecher Road, and Niebaum Lane, also is under an evacuation warning.

View a map of current evacuation zones in Napa County here.

12:15 PM: Sonoma County District Attorney warns against price gouging

The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office will investigate and prosecute any residents or businesses that engage in price gouging while the county is currently in a state of emergency due to the Glass fire, the office said in a news release.

Greatly increasing prices during the wildfire or the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is a misdemeanor crime, which can lead to one year in county jail or a fine of up to $10,000, the district attorney’s office said.

“We will not tolerate members of our community who have suffered from the ongoing disasters being further victimized by those who seek to take advantage of their predicament and will prosecute those who try to take unfair advantage in these situations by price gouging,” said Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, in a statement.

Complaints can be made on the district attorney’s website at http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/District-Attorney/, or by calling 707-565-2311.

12 PM: Gov. Gavin Newsom in St. Helena for wildfire briefing

Gov. Newsom is in St. Helena this morning, touring communities threatened by the Glass fire and meeting with local, state and federal representatives.

Watch his briefing here:

11:45AM: North Bay air quality reaches unhealthy levels, may last into next week

Wildfire smoke choking the sky above the North Bay is causing air quality to reach “unhealthy” levels, which will likely persist into at least early next week, according to air quality regulators.

Juan Romero, a spokesperson with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, said regulators are currently preparing to extend a Spare the Air alert for the Bay Area currently set to expire Friday to until Tuesday. An official announcement is expected in the next few hours, he said.

Romero said winds from the northwest are pushing smoke form the massive August and North complex fires burning in the northern part of the state over the North Bay. That haze is mixing with smoke from the out-of-control Glass fire, causing air conditions to worsen.

Those winds are expected to increase this afternoon, which may cause additional fire danger.

“If the winds pick up, it’s going to stoke that fire and make the smoke worse… ” Romero said. “While the fires are burning, we’re going to be dealing smoke impacts.”

Gerry Diaz, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said that much of the smoke is accumulating at higher altitudes. That’s similar to what happened last month when smoke from wildfires burning and up and down the West Coast blackened the sky. But Diaz said the impact from current conditions isn’t expected to be as severe.

“The good news is there’s a lot less smoke concentration aloft,” he said.

While air quality remains unhealthy, officials are encouraging people to remain inside with doors and windows closed as much as possible.

11:15AM: Red flag warning extended to Saturday

A red flag warning for the North Bay mountains and Glass fire burn area has been extended through early Saturday, meaning hot, dry, windy conditions will cause additional fire danger.

The warning begins at 1 p.m. and now continues through 6 a.m. Saturday.

Gerry Diaz, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said winds are expected to reach 15 to 20 mph with gusts as high as 30 mph at elevations above 1000 feet, coupled with critically low humidity lasting into the nighttime.

“Those two things are why we’re expecting to have those hazardous fire weather conditions,” he said.

Temperatures throughout much of Sonoma County are expected to climb above triple digits this afternoon, with some areas reaching a high of 104 degrees.

However, overhead smoke from the Glass fire, as well as from the massive wildfires burning further north, could keep temperatures cooler than currently forecast, Diaz said.

But residents may have to wait until the red flag warning expires on Saturday for substantial relief from the heat.

“If there’s any silver lining, we’re expecting those temperatures across the North Bay to come down into this weekend,” Diaz said.

8:30AM: Fire grows by about 5,500 acres as progress is made on containment

Cal Fire reports progress made on the Glass fire containment lines overnight – up to 5 percent Thursday morning.

The fire grew by an estimated 5,500 acres, to a total of 56,781 acres blackened as of early Thursday. No additional structures beyond the 36 reported Wednesday have been destroyed.

More than 2,100 firefighting personnel are battling the blaze that began Sunday morning in Napa County and spread west, endangering Trione-Annadel State Park and Santa Rosa’s eastern edge.

More than 50,000 Sonoma County residents were evacuated at the peak danger, though most have been allowed to return home, and power is being restored in those areas.

Containment was listed at 2 percent Wednesday night at 51,266 acres burned.

Fire crews using bulldozers and hand tools will continue reinforcing lines Thursday and aircraft will fight the fire from above when visibility conditions allow, Cal Fire said.

Heat may be a challenge for firefighters today as highs may rise to triple digits later Thursday and on Friday. A red flag warning goes into effect at 1 p.m. for elevated fire risk.

Santa Rosa will open a cooling station for those needing to escape the heat.

At 1 p.m., the Franklin Park Clubhouse at 2095 Franklin Avenue in east-central Santa Rosa will be open for anyone needing a respite.

More details can be found on the city’s alert.

8AM: Santa Rosa schools closed, power saving urged

Some schools in Santa Rosa will be closed Thursday and Friday, according to the Sonoma County Office of Education.

Closed through Friday are:

  • Bennett Valley Union School District will be closed through Oct. 2 (no distance learning)
  • Kenwood School District will be closed through Oct. 2 (no distance learning)
  • Rincon Valley Union School District will be closed through Oct. 2 (no distance learning)
  • All Santa Rosa City Schools will be closed through Oct. 2 (no distance learning, grab and go meals will continue to be served)

All closures can be viewed on the county Office of Education website.

With the heat expected in Sonoma County and much of California Thursday, the state’s power grid operator is calling for afternoon and evening energy conservation to make sure that the supply of power stays ahead of demand.

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) has called a Flex Alert running from Thursday at 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

With high temperatures in the forecast, the grid operator is predicting an increase in electricity demand, primarily from air conditioning use. Reduced capacity, along with fire activity and heat, has led to a potential shortage of energy supply Friday evening, CAISO said.

PG&E recommends these ways to curb your power use:

•When it’s cooler outside, bring the cool air in: If the outside air is cool in the night or early morning, open windows and doors and use fans to cool your home.

•Close your shades: Sunlight passing through windows heats your home and makes your air conditioner work harder. Block this heat by keeping blinds or drapes closed on the sunny side of your home.

•Cool down with a fan: Fans keep air circulating, allowing you to raise the thermostat a few degrees and stay just as comfortable while reducing your air-conditioning costs.

•Clear the area around your AC: Your air conditioning unit will operate better if it has plenty of room to breathe. The air conditioner's outdoor unit, the condenser, needs to be able to circulate air without any interruption or obstruction. Also, dirty air filters make your air conditioner work harder to circulate air. By cleaning or replacing your filters monthly, you can improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.

•Set your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, health permitting: Every degree you lower the thermostat means your air conditioner must work even harder to keep your home cool.

7:30AM: Hot, dry, windy conditions ahead

Heat and winds could the story of the Glass fire Thursday.

A red flag warning for the North Bay mountains begins at 1 p.m. and continues through 6 p.m. Friday, meaning hot, dry, windy conditions will cause additional fire danger.

As of Wednesday night, the fire had consumed 51,266 acres with a 2% containment rate staying steady. A morning update from Cal Fire is expected soon.

The winds, though, will be coming from the northwest instead of driving the fire westward as it did on its first hours.

That is expected to push flames back onto area they may not have burned before, but away from populated areas in Santa Rosa’s eastern side.

Cal Fire explains some of its firefighting strategies for the Glass fire for today and tomorrow in a Facebook video here.

The winds will also push smoke back over the North Bay, which could limit the visibility for aircraft again. Aircraft have been able to fly in Napa County but have been limited on the Sonoma County side because of poor visibility.

The high temps have already made their presence known in Sonoma County and beyond.

Just before 6 a.m., the weather service was showing a high of 89 in the Healdsburg hills, 86 in Glen Ellen and 85 in Saint Helena and Angwin.

Record highs are predicted for the next few days.

Smoky skies are back Thursday after a brief respite Wednesday and air quality is expected to be in the unhealthy range again Thursday and Friday for the North Bay area.

Check air quality in your area here.

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

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