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Thursday updates: Recovery assistance centers to open in Sonoma County

9 PM: County to establish recovery assistance centers this weekend in Guerneville and Healdsburg

The recovery process is underway for Sonoma County residents returning home to find varying degrees of damage from the Walbridge and Meyers fires.

So far, 91 structures have been destroyed or suffered major damage, and that number was expected to increase as more people return home, said county emergency operations manager Chris Godley.

The county is opening assistance centers this weekend at the West County Community Services building, 16390 Main St., in Guerneville, as well as at the Healdsburg High School gym. There, fire survivors can get information about how to file claims with FEMA, insurance providers and other organizations that support fire-torn neighborhoods.

They will be open for at least a week at various times, Godley said.

More than a dozen county, state and federal officials gathered for a virtual town hall Thursday night to begin supplying residents with recovery resources and tips for navigating an exhaustive process that thousands of local residents have undergone in recent years.

A list of the resources and websites discussed during the nearly two-hour briefing would be posted on socoemergency.org, said county spokesman Paul Gullixson.

Sonoma County Fires Community Briefing

A live update from the Sonoma County Emergency Operations Center, CALFIRE and representatives.

Posted by County of Sonoma on Thursday, August 27, 2020

Officials encouraged fire survivors to start the claims process and register with FEMA right away to take advantage of the the relief options available since the LNU Lightning Complex fires were declared a federal disaster last week.

The federal agency could provide up to $35,500 in various recovery assistance, as well as monetary support for temporary housing relief, said regional FEMA officer Willie Nunn.

6:45 PM: Evacuation orders downgraded in Lake County

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has reduced evacuation orders to warnings for the areas east of Highway 29, north of Butts Canyon Road, south of Morgan Valley Road and west of where Morgan Valley Road meets Rocky Creek Road.

“This includes all residences in the area of Lower Lake, Spruce Grove Road, Hofacker Lane, and Hidden Valley Lake,” the Sheriff’s Office said in the alert. “This does not include Jerusalem Valley.”

Some Lake County residents had been told to evacuate due to the eastern side of the LNU Lightning Complex Fire, where the massive Hennessey fire has been burning in Napa County.

5:45 PM: Evacuation orders lifted for Guerneville

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office downgraded evacuation orders to warnings for most of Guerneville while keeping orders intact for the community of Rio Nido.

The downgrade affects residents living South of Rio Nido and Armstrong Woods roads, west of Foothill Boulevard and River Road, east of Old Cazadero Road and north of the Russian River, the Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday evening.

Orders are still in place for Rio Nido and other parts of the county north of Guerneville and west of Windsor and Healdsburg due to the Walbridge fire.

The Sheriff’s Office said residents returning to Guerneville should look for alternate routes to River Road, which remains closed between the Hacienda Bridge and Foothill Boulevard.

Pool Ridge Road and Old Cazadero Road north of Chimney Rock Road remain under evacuation orders.

5 PM: Russian River parks to stay closed through weekend

Regional parks along the Russian River will remain closed due as fire crews continue to button up containment of the Walbridge fire.

Sonoma County Regional Parks asks people to avoid traveling to parks along the river or the coast as evacuees return home and as first responders continue to respond to the wildfire.

4 PM: Water conservation request lifted; officials say water quality unaffected

Sonoma Water has rescinded the emergency water conservation request it made last week of residents, citing progress containing the Walbridge fire.

“The Walbridge Fire has stabilized, weather conditions are favorable, and Sonoma Water’s water supply facilities are no longer in any immediate danger,” Sonoma Water said Thursday in a statement. “As it has been throughout the fire emergency, our water is safe and we have experienced no issues with water quality or deliveries.”

The water agency credited residents’ efforts in saving “millions of gallons” of water, bolstering firefighting efforts and emergency supplies.

While the emergency water savings period has passed, Sonoma Water noted that the past winter was very dry and urged residents to make water conservation part of their daily routine.

3 PM: County opens three re-entry checkpoints for fire evacuees

Sonoma County has opened three drive-though checkpoints for evacuees returning home after their displacement by the Walbridge and Meyers wildfires.

The checkpoints will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday for residents looking to receive personal protective equipment, trash bags and bottled water. The locations are as follows:

– 17499 Bodega Highway near the Highway 1 intersection

– The Healdsburg Park and Ride at Healdsburg and Grant avenues

– Ragle Ranch Regional Park, 500 Ragle Drive, Sebastopol.

County officials are asking residents to remain in their vehicles and wear facial coverings when visiting these locations.

More than 5,000 residents remain under evacuation orders due to the Walbridge fire north of Guerneville and west of Healdsburg.

All evacuation orders have been lifted or downgraded for the Meyers fire along the coast.

10:30 AM: Fire crews cut a fire line on Hennessey fire in Lake County

Photojournalist Kent Porter spent part of his day Wednesday on the front lines of the Hennessey fire in Lake County:

8:30 AM: Cal Fire expects to “turn corner” on Walbridge today; north area of Hennessey is top priority

A northwestern edge of the Hennessey fire will again be Cal Fire’s highest priority Thursday to keep the fire from further threatening Middletown.

Crews will finish backfiring the area Thursday, fire Operations Chief Chris Waters said in a morning briefing.

“Today’s a critical day,” he said. “They have 1,000 feet of firing left to do. Once that’s done that line will be secured and we can start talking about repopulating and getting folks back in there.”

Another focus Thursday will be the far northeastern corner of the blaze, where flames picked up Wednesday near Cache Creek and Highway 16.

“It actually crossed 16 and is heading toward Cortina Ridge,” Waters said. “Today we have resources in there trying to get line around that with dozers and also trying to build a plan to continue to expand that area in the event that that fire continues to grow.”

The Walbridge and Meyers fires in Sonoma County are fairly well in hand as of Thursday morning, despite the tough terrain, redwood fuel and structures.

“They’re making really good progress. Yesterday was a real strong day,” Waters said.

“Today, with the weather change, there’s a pretty significant marine layer there today, they ought to be making more progress,” he said. “It’s going very well but slower than normal because of lack of resources.

“But we expect to turn the corner today.”

7:30 AM: Hennessey grows, Walbridge stopped

The Hennessey fire in Lake and Napa counties grew by 8,000 acres overnight, Cal Fire reported early Thursday morning, but progress was stopped on Sonoma County’s Walbridge and Meyers fires.

Overall, both sides of what’s being called the LNU Lightning Complex fire have burned 368,868 acres.

Cal Fire has containment lines around 33 percent of the fire, mostly on the east and south of the Hennessey fire.

A total of 1,080 structures have been documented as destroyed and another 272 damaged, but assessment crews were still working in the field to determine loss.

In Sonoma County, the Walbridge fire west of Healdsburg and in the hills of west county, 55,353 acres have been burned, the same number Cal Fire reported Wednesday night.

The fire remains at 19 percent containment.

On the coast, the Meyers fire north of Jenner remained static at 2,360 acres and 97 percent containment.

The Hennessey group of seven fires that merged crew from 303,155 acres Wednesday night to 311,222 Thursday morning. It remains 33 percent contained.

The fires burn in six counties. To see further details about evacuations, road closures and evacuation centers, see Cal Fire’s full report here:

827LNUFireInfo7am.pdf

In Sonoma County, several evacuation zones and road closures remain.

Residents can access www.socoemergency.org or call 2-1-1 for more information or look up evacuation areas with this map: https://arcg.is/0buuL1.

To evacuate livestock, call 707-234-7193.

Evacuation orders (ordered to vacate):

Evacuation Zone - 1B3

• East of McCray Ridge Road and Pool Ridge

• North of Old Cazadero Road

• West of King Ridge Road

• South Skaggs Springs Road

Evacuation Zone - 1D5

• East of Armstrong Woods Road

• North of the Russian River

• West of Westside Road

• South of Sweetwater Springs Road

Evacuation Zone - 2A3

• North of Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Road to the eastern edge of Lake Sonoma

• Everything west of the eastern edge of Lake Sonoma to the western boundary that runs north along the ridge line from the intersection of Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Rd @ Old Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Road to the interception of Rockpile Road at Cooley Ranch Road north to the Mendocino County Line

Evacuation Zone - 2E1

• South of Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Road

• North of Palmer Creek Road and Stewart Point Skaggs Springs Road

• West of McCray Road

• East of Wallace Creek Road

Evacuation Zone - 2E2:

• South of Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Road

• North of Chemise Road

• West of the center of Dry Creek (the actual creek)

• East of Wallace Creek Road

Evacuation Zone - 2E3

• South of Chemise Road

• North of Westside Road

• East of Wallace Creek Road

• West of the Center of Dry Creek (the actual creek)

Evacuation Zone - 2E4:

• South of Palmer Creek Road

• North of McCray Ridge Road and Sweetwater Springs Road

• East of the Dry Creek (the actual creek)

Evacuation warnings (be ready to leave):

Evacuation Zone - 2A2

• North of the Dry Creek and the norther fork of Lak Sonoma County

• West of Dutcher Creek, City of Coverdale city limits and Highway 128

• South of the Mendocino County line

Road closures:

• 22303 Skaggs Springs Road at Anvil Ranch

• Dry Creek Road at Dutcher Creek Road

• Dry Creek Road at Yoakim Bridge Road

• Dry Creek Road at Lambert Bridge Road

• Westside Road at Hendricks Street

• Wohler Road at Eastside Road

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

Lori A. Carter

 Sonoma County courts and Rohnert Park, The Press Democrat

Local journalism is vital to a community's wellbeing, and that means keeping an eye on what happens in our justice system and our communities. I cover Sonoma County courts, as well as the city of Rohnert Park. In my work, I want to share the stories that affect our daily lives and, yes, maybe even rile us up. 

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