Walbridge fire containment grows to 58%, while Meyers blaze almost fully contained
Firefighters battling the Walbridge fire in west Sonoma County continued to take advantage of “cooperative weather” on Sunday, expanding containment lines around the 54,940-acre blaze and attacking hot spots in the interior.
Walbridge, which is part of the 375,209-acre LNU Lightning Complex fires, was 58% contained as of Sunday night, Cal Fire reported.
Firefighters worked Sunday on fortifying the southern end of the fire, an area west of Westside Road and north of several Russian River communities, including Rio Nido, Hacienda and Guerneville.
"Firefighters are making good progress and we’ll hopefully get that southern section buttoned up soon,“ Cal Fire spokesman Andy VanSciver said.
Consistent winds and a temperature inversion, in which cold air underlies warmer air at higher altitudes, have helped gain traction against the wildland blaze that had been sparked by lightning strikes a couple weeks ago.
“Weather has been cooperating for at least the last three days. Winds are cooperating,” VanSciver said. “The smoky overcast layer has also been helpful by keeping fire temperatures down on the fire line.”
Heading into the new week, however, fire officials are expecting “hotter, drier conditions moving into the area over the next couple of days,” he said Sunday night.
Overall, containment of the larger LNU Lightning Complex, which began the morning of Aug. 17, also has reached 58% containment as of Sunday night. The combined fires have torched swaths in Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Lake and Yolo counties, as well as a slice of Colusa County.
Cal Fire officials said Sunday crews are trying to prevent further growth in the north and east zones of the larger fire perimeter that has completely encircled Lake Berryessa.
The infernos combined have destroyed 1,209 structures and claimed the lives of three people in Napa and two in Solano counties.
No more structures in Sonoma County were destroyed overnight Saturday or Sunday, according to the latest Cal Fire update Sunday night. The west zone of the Lightning Complex has destroyed 118 single-family homes and 93 other structures. Another seven homes have been damaged.
A total of 2,839 firefighters are battling the Lightning Complex blazes, Cal Fire said. The agency on Sunday did not have a breakdown of how many firefighters are deployed to each fire, but a spokesman said more information about deployment would be available Monday.
In Sonoma County on Sunday, Cal Fire deployed 117 fire engines, 25 water tanks, 14 hand crews and 29 bulldozers to battle the Walbridge and Meyers fires. The Meyers blaze, just north of Jenner near the Sonoma Coast, also part of the LNU Lightning Complex, was 99% contained, as of Sunday night, after burning 2,360 acres, Cal Fire said.
More displaced residents in parts of Sonoma County were allowed to return to their homes starting Sunday afternoon.
County emergency management officials lifted evacuation orders in some areas west of Lake Sonoma and in additional neighborhoods along the Russian River. The evacuation orders were downgraded to warnings. The changes affected 62 residents west of Lake Sonoma.
The areas near the Russian River downgraded to evacuation warning so people could go home included: the Rio Nido community; north of the Russian River to the burn area; west of McPeak Road to Foothill Boulevard.
Evacuation orders were lifted near Lake Sonoma in the following areas: north of Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Road and portions near Lake Sonoma; the western boundary stretches along the ridgeline from the intersection of Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Road at Old Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Road to the intersection of Rockpile Road at Cooley Ranch Road, all the way to the Mendocino County line.
Chris Godley, director of emergency management for Sonoma County, said Sunday that 1,755 county residents still remain under an evacuation order, while 3,352 residents are under a warning.
On Sunday night, officials further downgraded evacuation orders to warnings near the Russian River to include areas: north of the Russian River to the burn area; west of Westside Road; south of Sweetwater Springs Road; and east of Armstrong Woods Road and Sweetwater Springs Road.
All homes east of 17990 Sweetwater Spring Road, in addition to all homes north of 16881 Armstrong Woods Road, remain under evacuation order, though.
Also on Sunday night, officials downgraded evacuation orders to warnings in the Dry Creek area to include communities: north of Mill Creek Road; west of Dry Creek and Westside Road; south of Chemise Road and east of the burn area. In addition, areas north of Sweetwater Springs Road; west of Westside Road; south of Mill Creek Road; and east of the burn area are now under evacuation warning.
All access to Lake Sonoma remains closed, officials said.
Over the weekend, residents along a portion of Dry Creek were allowed to return home after local emergency officials downgraded an evacuation order there to a warning. That included the area west of the Dry Creek, between Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs to Chimese roads.
Residents who live on Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs and Chimese roads remain under an evacuation order. Fall Creek Road was downgraded to an evacuation warning. People returning to the area will need to show proof of residency at the checkpoint at Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Road at the Fish Hatchery.
Officials said residents returning to their homes off of West Dry Creek will have to use Lambert Bridge and Yoakim Bridge roads to return.
Additionally, some areas northwest of the blaze were downgraded from an evacuation order to a warning: north and east of Lion Head Ranch Road at King Ridge Road; and southwest of 14900 Stewart Point-Skaggs Springs Road. Lion Head Ranch Road remains under an evacuation order.
All evacuation orders in the following areas also are lifted: north of Dry Creek and the northern fork of Lake Sonoma; west of Dutcher Creek; Coverdale city limits and Highway 128; and south of the Mendocino County line.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @pressreno.
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