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Kincade fire now 68 percent contained

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For the first time since the Kincade fire started eight days ago, it didn’t grow during the night and firefighters gained slightly on containment, now at 68 percent, according to Cal Fire early Friday.

The fire remained at 77,758 acres. Fire officials Friday said the calm weather again helped with progress during the night

“I think you’ll see that number go up steadily over the next few days,” said Sonoma County Fire Chief Mark Heine on Friday.

As firefighters further contained the blaze, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office downgraded an evacuation order to a warning Friday afternoon for the area north of Pine Flat Road, Dillingham Road, Socrates Mine Road and east of Highway 128 to the Lake County line. The Sheriff’s Office also lifted more evacuation warnings for the areas of south Geyserville, Healdsburg and Fitch Mountain, Windsor, Larkfield and north of Santa Rosa.

Heine said Friday afternoon that the fire was “very quiet,” adding that he thought “the worst is over” for Sonoma County.

The remaining area of the fire not encircled is mainly in difficult terrain along the fire’s northeast side.

“Most of the whole west side to the east is all real cold and looking really good,” Heine said. “There is still work to do on the east side, in the hills above Middletown… in the very rugged area through the Geysers geothermal property. It’s really hard territory for the crews to get in.”

Meanwhile, PG&E crews Friday continued restoring electricity to remaining customers still out from the planned outages due to the weather and fire. Friday morning there were 326 customers still in the dark but by early afternoon — mainly in the Bodega Highway corridor west of Sebastopol and near Fitch Mountain in Healdsburg. By early afternoon that was down to a handful in Sonoma County. Several dozen customers still were out in Napa County near the fire area. All of those affected by the planned outages should have power restored by Friday afternoon or evening, according to PG&E.

Another 1,400 customers still were without power due to being in or near the fire zone, according to Deanna Contreras, company spokeswoman. When they were be back in power wasn’t clear Friday afternoon.

Utility crews Friday continued efforts to restore gas flow to homes and businesses, also shut off due to fire precaution. Crews were in Windsor Friday lighting pilot lights and were scheduled to be in Healdsburg on Saturday to do the same, Contreras said.

About 24,000 PG&E customers had their gas turned off and 4,400 now have it restored. Crews are going house‑to‑house to relight pilot lights.

The roughly 20,000 PG&E customers still without gas may remain in the cold over the weekend, as the North Bay is under a frost advisory, said David King, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. While temperatures are expected to warm a little over the next couple days, some areas will still be below freezing.

North Bay residents may also be affected by moderate air quality through the weekend caused by smoke from the Kincade fire, said Kristine Roselius, a spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. In Santa Rosa, Windsor and other areas closest to the blaze, the air quality will be moderate and possibly unhealthy for some sensitive groups through Sunday.

The number of homes and other structures burned remained the same overnight, at 349 structures destroyed.

With the progress on this fire and growing needs elsewhere, firefighters were being released from the Kincade Thursday into Friday to head home or help on fires burning at the southern end of the state. Fire officials early Friday offered conflicting numbers for how many were left in this county. Cal Fire Friday afternoon reported just under 5,000 customers remained, down from the peak of 5,245.

Heine expected officials in Southern California would be seeking a strike team from Sonoma County. But the needs here remained the priority, he said.

San Jose Fire Captain Cleo Doss, who was tapped by Cal Fire to help as a spokesman for the Kincade fire, said the agency was no longer using very large air tankers because “they felt there was no need for that” now that the fire has been better contained. Doss said Cal Fire was still doing air attacks, though, using its 15 helicopters.

Cal Fire still expected the fire to be fully contained by Nov. 7, Doss said Friday afternoon.

Check back for updates.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ChantelleHLee.

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