Sonoma County to receive $2.6 million federal grant to cover Kincade Fire costs

The FEMA grant will predominantly reimburse the county for overtime pay of county staff who worked at the Emergency Operations Center and the shelters for displaced residents between Oct. 24, 2019 and Nov. 7, 2019.|

Sonoma County is set to receive $2.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover costs connected with the 2019 Kincade Fire.

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, announced the grant in a news release Wednesday and praised FEMA for reimbursing the county.

“This fire caused widespread evacuations, forcing the county to set up their emergency operations center and emergency shelters for evacuees,” Thompson said in the release. “These efforts, while life-saving, incurred large costs for the county. I am glad to see FEMA stepping in to help the county respond this disaster and support their efforts to keep our communities safe.”

The Kincade Fire began Oct. 23, 2019, and burned 77,758 acres, becoming the largest wildfire in Sonoma County’s history. Authorities ordered more than 190,000 people to evacuate from Alexander Valley to the coast, and flames destroyed 174 homes.

Firefighters made determined stand on Windsor’s eastern edge, preventing the fire’s march into more populated neighborhoods.

“The Kincade Fire had a devastating impact on Sonoma County, and a lot of costs were incurred to ensure evacuees were safe and housed,” Huffman said. “It’s a welcome relief to see this funding from FEMA to support the shelters and emergency centers that did — and will continue to — save lives.”

The $2.6 million grant will predominantly reimburse the county for overtime pay of county staff who worked at the county’s Emergency Operations Center and the shelters for displaced residents between Oct. 24, 2019, and Nov. 7, 2019, said Chris Godley, the county’s emergency management director.

Local governments become eligible to apply for reimbursements through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program once a presidential disaster is declared, Godley said.

The county has applied to the program several times following recent disasters including the 2019 floods, Godley said.

“Unfortunately, we have cause to be very good at this,” Godley said. “The silver lining is the county is maximizing all the financial resources it can to minimize the impacts locally. It also enables us to move quickly and do things like repairing roads, restoring the community quickly.”

The Kincade Fire started in the Mayacamas Mountains east of Geyserville. District Attorney Jill Ravitch filed criminal charges against PG&E in 2021 after a Cal Fire investigation determined the fire was sparked by high-voltage PG&E transmission line in The Geysers geothermal area.

In April, PG&E reached an agreement with prosecutors in which the utility giant agreed to $20.25 million in payments to local government and civic institutions and five years of oversight of PG&E’s local wildfire prevention initiatives by the district attorney’s office.

Supervisor James Gore, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, thanked Huffman and Thompson for their help securing the grant.

“We are very grateful to FEMA and Congressmen Thompson and Huffman for supporting our efforts to care for an unprecedented number of evacuees affected by the 2019 Kincade fire,” Gore said.

You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or On Twitter @MurphReports.

Emma Murphy

County government, politics reporter

The decisions of Sonoma County’s elected leaders and those running county government departments impact people’s lives in real, direct ways. Your local leaders are responsible for managing the county’s finances, advocating for support at the state and federal levels, adopting policies on public health, housing and business — to name a few — and leading emergency response and recovery.
As The Press Democrat’s county government and politics reporter, my job is to spotlight their work and track the outcomes.

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