Tuesday updates: National Guard sends 250 soldiers to Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties
7 PM: National Guard sending firefighting reinforcements
Help is on the way from the California National Guard, which is sending 250 soldiers into Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties, state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said.
The troops, who will work on the fire lines and provide logistic support, are expected to arrive Wednesday or Thursday, McGuire said at the county’s Tuesday afternoon media briefing.
And as other California fires diminish, he said, the area will receive personnel under mutual aid agreements from other counties and from other states, as well, he said.
The guard members will help fight the 54,500-acre Walbridge fire in Sonoma County and the nearly 300,000-acre Hennessey fire that McGuire said is making its way from Napa County into Lake County.
6:25 PM: Most evacuated residents allowed to return home
In the wake of a major reopening of fire-threatened areas on Tuesday, Chris Godley, the county emergency management director, said about 5,000 residents remained under an evacuation order and about 400 were still under evacuation warnings.
That amounted to an 85% reduction in the population either ordered to leave home or prepare to evacuate, Godley said during the county’s afternoon media briefing.
Three re-entry stations, open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. were operating at Bodega, Healdsburg and Sebastopol to assist residents in returning to the homes, he said.
The stations will advise residents on how to re-enter burned areas safely and provide personal protection equipment to those who need it, Godley said.
The locations are:
Bodega: 17499 Bodega Highway, adjacent to the cemetery and near the Highway 1 and Bodega Highway intersection.
Healdsburg: Healdsburg Park and Ride at the corner of Healdsburg Avenue and Grant Avenue with easy access to and from Highway 101.
Sebastopol: Ragle Ranch Regional Park, 500 Ragle Drive, first parking lot past the main entrance kiosk.
Godley said the county has quested a watershed emergency response team, with support from the state and federal government, to assess any fire impacts on the county’s water supply, especially around Lake Sonoma. The reservoir near Healsburg is the largest source of water delivered to 600,000 Sonoma and Marin county residents.
County Supervisor James Gore said there was concern that black soot and pink fire retardant could get into the reservoir.
None of the county’s public water systems are at risk, Godley said, but residents with private wells should consider the possibility their pipes have been damaged.
5:40 PM: Cal Fire chief recounts success on fire lines, says he’s ’cautiously optimistic’
Cal Fire Division Chief Ben Nicholls recounted successes on the fire lines Tuesday from a vantage point on Chemise Road with a white plume of smoke rising from the woods in the hills west of Healdsburg behind him while appearing at the county’s afternoon virtual media briefing.
“We’re cautiously optimistic we’re making headway today,” he said, noting that the venerable Colonel Armstrong tree had been saved at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve outside Guernevile.
Dozers were cutting a line from Mt. Jackson Resort Road downhill toward Sweetwater Springs Road to prevent the Walbridge fire from reaching the Hacienda area along the Russian River, Nicholls said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do here on the east side (of the fire) and the south side,” he said.
Nicholls credited some of the firefighting success to a prevailing southwest winds the past couple of days carrying moisture that has reduced the fire’s intensity and is expected to continue.
“Conditions are in our favor,” he said. “”We’re going to maximize them when we’ve got ’em.“
3:10 PM: 2.8 million gallons of retardant deployed to LNU Complex so far
As residents re-enter areas close to the Walbridge and other wildfires, Cal Fire officials are asking the public to resist the urge to deploy their drones to see what has happened around their communities in their absence.
Cal Fire spokesman Jeremy Rahn acknowledged people have natural curiosity about seeing the fire, as well as damage to the landscape and neighborhoods.
But “if drones are flying, we can’t,” he said.
Weather conditions and heavy smoke in the area already have limited opportunities for air tankers and other aircraft to offer support to ground crews cutting containment lines through dense fuel in the Sonoma County hills where the 54,503-acre Walbridge fire is burning.