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Red flag warning extended to 8 a.m. Saturday in North Bay mountains due to fire danger

The National Weather Service extended a red flag warning into a third straight day, warning the North Bay mountains faced an increased risk of wildfire through 8 a.m. Saturday due to expected scorching temperatures and critically low humidity.

The agency forecast northeast winds of 15 mph to 30 mph ,at higher elevations with gusts of up to 55 mph at the tallest North Bay peaks on Friday. Though wind speeds will subside Saturday, they will continue contributing to the extremely arid conditions, said weather service meteorologist Brayden Murdock.

“Winds are set to taper off for a good portion of the region, but as we continue into tonight, we’re still seeing very dry conditions, so (the red flag warning) is in an abundance of caution,” Murdock said Friday.

The region has been under a red flag warning since 5 a.m. Wednesday, placing firefighters on high alert to combat any sign of flames. The weather service initially extended the warning through 6 p.m. Friday for most of the North Bay, before again extending it again for higher elevations through Saturday morning.

Temperatures hit a record 101 degrees in Santa Rosa on Friday, according to Accuweather. The hottest temperature in Sonoma County was 102 in Cloverdale. Humidity levels were predicted to drop as low as 8%, and stay there into Friday night.

In addition to the red flag warning, a heat advisory was in effect through 9 p.m. Friday. An advisory means there’s a greater chance of heat-related illnesses so officials recommended limiting outdoor activities during the sweltering afternoon.

On Friday morning, a small flare-up 2 miles within the Glass fire perimeter caused visible smoke plumes near Oakmont, but there was no risk of flames reaching nearby homes, fire officials said.

“There’s no current threat to the public and Cal Fire is monitoring the incident right now,” agency spokesperson Will Powers said Friday morning.

The Santa Rosa Fire Department received over 60 emergency calls reporting the smoke. “Residents can expect to continue to see unburned pockets of fuel generate smoke well within the burn area,” the Fire Department said in a tweet.

On Friday morning, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. began the process of restoring electricity to the 1,700 Sonoma County customers affected by a planned power shu-toff to prevent the utility’s equipment from sparking wildfires during the hot, dry, windy conditions.

Crews received the all-clear to start inspecting power lines before 10 a.m. PG&E restored power to every Sonoma County customer impacted by the shut-off by 7 p.m., PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said.

Nearly all of the 41,000 customers throughout 24 Northern California counties who had their power turned off during the hazardous fire weather had electricity restored by 8 p.m., the utility said.

The planned outages were less widespread than the utility’s original predictions, which forecast 53,000 customers would have their power turned off. Weather conditions were more subdued than expected in certain areas, allowing the utility to cancel shut-offs in those areas, Contreras said.

The extended red flag conditions were not expected to meet the utility’s thresholds to extend or initiate new power shut-offs, Contreras said.

“The winds are just not meeting the threshold of a (public safety power shut-off) so we don’t expect another shut-off for the next several days,” Contreras said.

On Thursday night, strong winds again hit the hills in Sonoma and Napa counties, though with less intensity than on Wednesday night, Murdock said. Still, some of the highest peaks, including in the Healdsburg hills, saw powerful gusts of up to 72 mph.

Despite the winds, Cal Fire reported no significant wildfire activity overnight, Powers said.

Heading into the weekend, shifting winds blowing in from the ocean could bring cooler temperatures in the 80s and more humid conditions, according to the weather service.

You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at ethan.varian@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian. You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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