Here’s a quick take on the latest news about the active fires in Sonoma County, plus news from Mendocino, Lake and other North Bay counties.
Progress on containment in the Sonoma County fires Saturday night according to Cal Fire officials:
Tubbs fire: 50 percent containment and 35,470 acres burned;
Pocket fire: 15 percent containment and 11,246 acres burned;
Nuns fire: 15 percent containment and 47,106 acres burned;
Oakmont fire: 10 percent containment and 550 acres burned.
In all the fires totaled 94,372 acres.
Mendocino County’s Redwood fire was bigger Saturday night by about 1,000 acres but firefighters now have it 30 percent contained, Cal Fire said Saturday night.
The fire, which burned the north end of Redwood Valley and the southern end of Potter Valley and so far has killed eight people, reached 35,000 acres Saturday night. As many as 8,000 structures remain threatened.
Officials said significant progress was made on containment lines in the last 24 hours. Firefighters continued to finish off hot spots around burned homes, a significant step in blunting their potential to flare. The southwest perimeter was continuing to hold.
Currently about 2,000 people have evacuated from the Redwood fire.
The firefighting effort Saturday was up to 2,415 people, with a small percentage of those wrapping up the Sulphur fire in Clearlake.
Saturday officials had downsized the Sulphur fire to 2,207 acres from earlier calculations of 2,500 acres from more accurate mapping. They considered it 70 percent contained.
That fire destroyed more than 150 homes in Clearlake. All evacuated people in Clearlake have been allowed home and some in the Redwood fire also have seen lifted evacuations.
About 30 firefighters Saturday night drove to the top of 4,341-foot Mount St. Helena and started a mountain scramble down the southwest side, working the edges of an arm of the huge Tubbs fire trying to push its way farther into Lake County, one of its flanks that also include Sonoma and Napa counties.
Lit by headlamps and carrying chainsaws, their job was to cut away thick brush in the fire’s path in an attempt to starve it of some of the huge amounts of dry, thick fuel it’s consumed now in three counties.
It’s standard tactics – a night attack by hand crews. Night is when a fire typically lays down from cooler weather — unless winds are high — providing firefighters their best hours to make a dent in a wildland blaze.
Saturday night’s winds still could be a problem, especially so far up the mountain. But the forecast was better than Friday night.
Firefighters faced a slow going, 3-mile or so hike Saturday night along the edge of the fire to the bottom and hoped with dawn and good weather, aircraft would move in and “beat up on it,” with retardant, said Greg Bertelli, a Cal Fire division chief helping run the north end of the fire.
The Mount St. Helena stretch of the deadly Tubbs has been one of the more active fronts in a fire that last week obliterated thousands of Santa Rosa homes in one direction, burned passed Calistoga in Napa County in another and continues moving farther into Lake County.
About 450 acres were lost Friday on the mountain but the Saturday the fire didn’t chew up too much, Bertelli said.
An advisory evacuation remained in place for Middletown on the other side of the hill. Advisory and mandatory evacuations orders also remained for areas in and around Calistoga.
It was about 2 a.m. Saturday when the north winds blew into Sonoma, kicked up something burning and launched it over fire lines, sparking a new arm of the Nuns fire, forcing evacuations of hundreds of people northeast of town and burning homes.
“It created a big intense fire that came down the hill form the Seventh Street area, down into Castle Road,” said Sonoma Valley Fire Chief Steve Akre.
The county issued 500 mandatory evacuation calls to residents of the rural lanes and roads. More than a dozen fire engines were in the area but all available firefighters in the valley, plus new strike teams and firefighters in Santa Rosa rushed to the effort – an 18-hour-plus fight that was continuing in spots Saturday night.
Fire officials had a plan ready, knowing those winding lanes, Castle Road, Old Winery Road, Lovall Valley and Thornsberry neighborhood were vulnerable as fire already was in the area, said Akre, one of a team of commanders who ran the firefight. Crews were dispatched to try and save property, including the historic Buena Vista Winery, which didn’t burn.
“Crews experienced some very intense, some very difficult fire conditions. They did an outstanding job,” Akre said, estimating they’d likely saved hundreds of homes in the fire’s path.
Saturday night the fight continued, he said, but the winds were more manageable and forecasts more favorable.
Sonoma County grape growers have been warned to watch for arsonists in their vineyards after a suspicious fire near MacMurray Ranch in Healdsburg on Friday afternoon..
“It has been brought to our attention that an arsonist was seen along Westside Road with a flare. When the grape grower arrived and saw smoke, the arsonist fled and unfortunately was not caught,” said Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County winegrowers in an alert sent to growers.
Forestville firefighters said they kept the 3:20 p.m. fire under a half acre. They said the cause of the fire was being investigated.
Neighbors said a tasting room employee glanced out the window and saw a column of smoke rising. He immediately called the fire department, closed the tasting room and rushed to help the firefight.
Kruse, who lost her own home in Fountaingrove to the fire, said, “It is with a heavy heart that I report this information.”
Fire has ravaged a majority of Trione-Annadel State Park, a 5,100‑acre jewel in Sonoma County’s extensive local, county and state park system.
As much as three-quarters of the park has burned, Cal Fire Operations Chief Steve Crawford said Saturday.
Annadel, east of Santa Rosa marks the northern end of Sonoma Valley where multiple fires have merged into a 46,000‑acre blaze. It abuts Oakmont senior residential community and several rural, hilltop residential neighborhoods. Fire swept through Monday during the first several hours of fires, which now have burned for almost a week, leveling thousands of homes and businesses countywide.
Cal Fire maps show much of the state park is within the Nuns fire zone. The damage is to the southeast half, which includes many popular trails.
The park is evacuated and park officials can’t get in until the fire is extinguished and the area cooled.
State parks environmental scientist Cyndy Shafer said she is anxious to get inside and see the extent of the damage. “It’s going to be a changed park,” Shafer said.
The state park connects with Sonoma County’s Spring Lake park, which so far appeared to have escaped the flames, said Bert Whitaker, operations director for Sonoma County Regional Parks.
Looking in from Annadel’s outskirts, the damage in some areas appeared to be less devastating than others, Whitaker said. “It does appear in many areas it’s more of a ground fire than in the crown of the trees, which ecologically is kind of a good thing.”
Whitaker said he’s seen many displaced animals, mainly deer, outside the park and that residents should expect to see more animals in the city as their habitat and food sources have burned and the area remains too hot.
Other county parks damaged to various degrees included Sonoma Valley Regional Park by Glen Ellen, Crane Creek near Rohnert Park and Sonoma Mountain, Whitaker said.
Sonoma County’s Coroner’s Office Saturday reported two more bodies have been found from the Tubbs fire, raising the tally in Sonoma County to 22.
Family was being notified and names were expected to be released of at least some of the fatal victims on Sunday. One person was found at a property on Mark West Springs Road and one in the Fountaingrove neighborhood, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The new information brings the death toll from the North Bay fires to 40. Earlier in the day county officials said that a body had been found last night in the fire ruins on Fountaingrove. Two bodies also were found Saturday in Napa County.
CHP officers in Sonoma County are reporting many near-miss collisions in the last week they suspect stem from drivers looking at their phones due to the widespread fire situation.
“We have had a lot of close calls in the county,” said CHP spokesman Officer Jon Sloat, speaking at a press conference Saturday about the overall fire situation.
He said drivers may be trying to reach family or updating themselves on social media about the fires. Cellphones have been frequently buzzing with law enforcement and fire updates and evacuation notices.
“People think it’s a freebie because there is a disaster. No. You have to pay more attention than ever” he said, with police and fire vehicles often moving fast through the region and power outages leaving some intersections without working traffic lights and other changed conditions.
“If you do it behind the wheel you are putting everybody at risk,” Sloat said.
Santa Rosa Hydroponics has an easily recognizable two-sided LED billboard on Highway 101. After owner Jason Barretta posted a message on it Monday offering free barbecue and asking for donations for victims of the North Bay fires, people responded: two tractor-trailer loads full of clothes for all ages, hygiene products, bottled water, kids toys, school supplies and nonperishable food.
Beginning Sunday and every day afterward from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Santa Rosa Hydroponics is inviting everyone impacted by the fire to choose from the mountain of donated supplies in front of his business at 4180 S. Moreland Ave.
Barretta said donations have come from everywhere from Chico to San Francisco.
Santa Rosa Junior College has canceled all classes through Sunday, Oct. 22.
When the winds rose about 2:45 a.m. Saturday and a new fire sparked and threatened Oakmont and several residential areas near Calistoga Road and along Highway 12, mandatory evacuation systems kicked in for thousands of east Santa Rosa residents.
Santa Rosa officials Saturday praised residents for heeding the order and moving quickly, saying it made an important difference in the ability of emergency crews to move through the area.
“I think people are paying attention to the alerts and are ready to go,” said Police Chief Hank Schreeder.
Officials also praised a small army of law enforcement from several agencies that swept into the area and began evacuating people, sounding the alert and knocking on doors, often multiple times.
Santa Rosa police had hoped to give some officers the day off Saturday but canceled that so more people could help on the evacuation, Schreeder said.
The scene was far different than the weeklong fire’s first night, when firefighters also had to focus on saving lives with evacuations instead of fighting the fire.
A push by the fire burning in hills northeast of Sonoma Saturday destroyed multiple homes but by afternoon still was being held from the city.
“It was burning toward downtown Sonoma,” said Bret Gouvea, Cal Fire battalion chief helping manage the fires. “We put a lot of resources there and they’re beating it into the ground.”
“We’re still keeping it up and out of the city limits,” said Cal Fire’s Steve Crawford, operations chief.
The increased fire near Oakmont and Sonoma, as well as a battle to hold back flames on Mount St. Helena in Lake County, were the night’s main struggles.
But it also held successes, said officials.
In many places that meant buffer zones and containment lines that held, despite increased winds. The Pocket fire and much of the Tubbs fire held steady during the night, officials said.
Cal Fire maps showing locations of containment lines for the fires included a short section of the western side of the Pocket fire and much of the southern portion of the Tubbs fire. The Nuns fire, the county’s largest at 46,000 acres, has a curving squiggle of containment line covering a large portion of the southern end, as well as around Glen Ellen. Those lines represented 10 percent of the fire’s perimeter.
The Pocket fire Saturday was about 11,000 acres and remained 5 percent contained.
The Tubbs fire was 35,270 acres and still at 44 percent containment.
A Napa County Sheriff-Coroner forensic search team recovered the remains of two victims on Soda Canyon Road Saturday morning.
Based on information received from the county’s Emergency Operations Center, the team recovered the remains of Sally Lewis, 90, and her 50-year-old caretaker, Teresa Santos, in the 1900 block.
Positive identifications have not been made. Next of kin for both victims have been notified.
The forensic search team and Napa County Search and Rescue teams are continuing to search for missing persons.
The early morning fire that sparked a huge influx of firefighting efforts in the Oakmont area burned an estimated 450 acres, said a Cal Fire official Saturday at a press briefing.
The fire off Pythian Road got into timber, helping strengthen the blaze, which quickly threatened homes off Calistoga Road and in subdivisions along Highway 12 including Sky Hawk and Mountain Hawk. Officials didn’t believe any homes had been lost.
The flames were being held at Highway 12 and hadn’t crossed to the Oakmont side of the route.
“It made a run toward Oakmont and came up to (Highway) 12,” said Steve Crawford, Cal Fire operations chief.
It also still was actively burning near Pythian Road. Officials didn’t believe any homes had been lost there.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved disaster relief for Lake County, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, announced Saturday.
The disaster relief funds will help individuals and families who have lost homes and property in the fires.
The death toll from the North Bay fires rose to 38 today with the announcement that searchers found the 20th Santa Rosa victim last night in the Fountaingrove neighborhood and two bodies Saturday in Napa County.
More than 3,000 personnel are involved in the firefight, and that number is expected to increase to 4,000 by Monday.
Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said during a briefing at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds that Kaiser Permanente
was expected to open later Saturday afternoon.
Gov. Jerry Brown announced the White House has approved California’s request for direct aid to individuals and families in Mendocino, Lake, Yuba and Butte counties who suffered losses due to the fires. The same assistance was approved yesterday for residents of Napa and Sonoma counties.
Survivors who reside in these six counties can apply online for federal Individual Disaster Assistance at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by phone at 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585. Applicants who use 711 or Video Relay Service may call 800-621-3362. The toll-free numbers are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital is not reopening today. An earlier press release issued by Cal Fire incorrectly described the hospital’s status.
The hospital hopes to reopen the middle of next week, Sutter spokeswoman Lisa Amador said. First, it must make sure its staff and facility is ready to treat patients, and gain approval from state regulators.
“We are cleaning the place from top to bottom,” she said.
Gusty winds in hilly east Sonoma neighborhoods have created “islands of fires” according to firefighters, threatening homes on Lovell Valley Road.
Plumes of smoke and a rain of ash surround firefighters, who have found homes evacuated but animals left behind, including a chicken coop they were trying to protect.
Deer were seen running down the streets of east Sonoma to escape fires.
As feared, northeast winds kicked up about 3 a.m. Saturday, launching the week’s latest fire run and firefight, aimed at keeping flames from closing in on the Sky Hawk subdivision and crossing Highway 12 into Oakmont.
The fire had been burning on the north side of the highway, high in the hills. But with the winds’ help, it crested ridges and headed down into the valley.
Fire officials flooded the area with resources starting about 2:30 a.m., emptying the Sonoma County fairgrounds of firefighters and ordering up as many as 15 more fire engines to help, said Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for several large east Santa Rosa neighborhoods and the CHP expanded the Highway 12 closure west to Calistoga Road.
Gossner said when the sun rose the winds calmed, helping slow the fire. Some 18 helicopters stationed at the Petaluma airport as well as multiple air tankers launched to work the blaze. Additional bulldozers shifted around the hillsides, cutting new lines as part of the overall effort to box in the fire, Gossner said.
Though still burning at noon, firefighters were gaining control and the blaze hadn’t crossed into Oakmont. Some homes were lost in the hills on the north side of the highway but a number wasn’t available Saturday morning. The county’s teen detention facility, evacuated earlier in the week, wasn’t burned.
CHP Officer Jon Sloat was helping on the resident evacuation and at dawn saw flames come into view.
“It burned down toward Oakmont into the open, flat fields across the street from Oakmont,” he said, but firefighters held it short of the highway.
Sloat, still in the Oakmont area just before noon, said the fire appeared to have slowed.
The mandatory evacuation for Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital will be lifted at 3 p.m. today.
Access to the hospital will be through the Sutter entrance. All other access points will be closed and staffed by law enforcement.
Sutter Hospital is at 30 Mark West Springs Road.
A few dozen fearful and fatigued people gathered at the Safeway parking lot on Calistoga Road at Highway 12 Saturday to watch smoke.
They’d all been evacuated from nearby neighborhoods before dawn and by late morning were at the lot with eyes turned east as the latest fire run burned homes and hillsides closer to Sonoma.
Conversations included appreciation for law enforcement who repeatedly moved up and down streets before 5 a.m. alerting residents by knocking on doors, and using loudspeakers, sirens and flashing lights to spread the word, and then doubling back and tripling back to warn them again.
“They came by on motorcycles and then they came twice,” said Ernesto Jovel, 40, who left his Mountain Hawk home.
“They’re doing an excellent job. I really appreciate that,” said Jovel, whose sister lost her Larkfield home and whose friend lost a Fountaingrove condo to the fires.
Residents also said they’d hoped the fires had turned a corner and that the worst had passed, but Saturday morning it didn’t feel that way as sirens punctuated the air and law enforcement and fire trucks seemed to be everywhere.
Hundreds of people are in line Saturday at the newly established Federal Emergency Management Agency hub in downtown Santa Rosa on the first floor of The Press Democrat.
There is currently a two-hour wait to be seen at the center, which brings together federal, state and local agencies as a “one-stop-shop” to help people rebuild their lives.
People who have been left homeless in the fire can receive money for temporary housing and recoup losses from FEMA. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will also issue new driver’s licenses at the center for people who lost theirs in the fire.
The address is 427 Mendocino Ave.
Residents — even those who are covered by homeowner, commercial and auto policies at the time of the disaster — are urged to apply online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by phone at 800-621-3362.
Representatives of five insurance companies are at Finley Park in Santa Rosa to help residents impacted by fires file and process home and auto insurance claims. The representatives are able to also provide money for living expenses.
Bring insurance information if available and a personal ID. If neither is available, the representatives will be able to help through company information with a customer’s name.
The companies at Finley are Allstate, The Hartford, USAA, Liberty Mutual and Safeco.
They are located at 2060 W. College Ave. in the back parking lot behind the tennis courts.
Operating hours: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dispatchers have sent first responders to Jack London State Park for “artifact retrieval.”
More than 100 people lined up on Mendocino Avenue before 9 a.m. Saturday seeking information and access to services at a newly established Federal Emergency Management Agency hub.
The Local Assistance Center opened on the first floor of The Press Democrat building at 427 Mendocino Ave. The center brings together federal, state and local agencies as a “one-stop-shop” to help people rebuild their lives.
“I lost everything,” said Felis Domingues, a 70-year-old Fountaingrove resident who was at the front of the line. “All my personal documents are gone. I’m not sure what FEMA can do but I’m looking for information.”
People who have been left homeless in the fire can receive money for temporary housing and recoup losses from FEMA. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will also issue new driver’s licenses at the center for people who lost theirs in the fire.
Domingues, who has been staying with a friend in Sebastopol since her home was destroyed Sunday night, said she was especially interested in receiving help finding temporary housing.
Governor Jerry Brown and U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris will be in Santa Rosa today to attend a private briefing with local leaders and emergency management officials before joining a community meeting.
Officials with the Santa Rosa Fire Department, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Cal Fire, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the City of Santa Rosa will participate in the 2 p.m. meeting at Santa Rosa High School, 1235 Mendocino Ave.
Brown has declared a state of emergency for Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, Napa and five other counties due to the effects of the fires burning in California.
Mt. Konocti County Park and Regional Trails, Highland Springs Recreational Area are closed until further notice because of red flag winds.
The Pocket fire has burned 10,996 acres between Cloverdale and Geyserville and is 5 percent contained, Cal Fire reported Saturday morning.
A MANDATORY EVACUATION order for northern Geyserville as well as River Rock Casino remains in effect.
Several homes along Castle Road in east Sonoma near Bartholomew Park Winery have burned down. The location is less than 2 miles from the Sonoma Plaza.
Clearlake and Lake County will open an assistance center Tuesday, Oct. 17 for those impacted by the Sulphur fire. Local, state and national service and relief organizations will provide impacted residents a one-stop location for getting assistance about accessing medical care, replacing vital records or obtaining a new driver’s license.
The assistance center will be open through Saturday, Oct. between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. at Clearlake Senior Community Center, 3245 Bowers Ave., Clearlake.
Fire is visible on the hills behind Ledson Winery & Vineyards in Kenwood.
A new fire ignited north of Highway 12 and just a few miles west of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Friday evening. It has burned 300 acres and it “growing rapidly,” said Cal Fire spokeswoman Amy Head.
The fire is burning between the Tubbs fire to the north and the Nuns fire to the south, Head said. She said it started off Pythian Road.
The new fire is what prompted early morning evacuation orders Saturday for eastern neighborhoods of Santa Rosa such as Skyhawk, Mountain Hawk and much of Rincon Valley.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has issued a SHELTER IN PLACE order for residents of Spring Valley.
A wildland fire was reported around 5 a.m. in the area of the Spring Valley community in Clearlake Oaks. That fire is burning west, away from the community, and several fire units are on the scene.
The Nuns fire has now scorched 46,104 acres and was 10 percent contained early Saturday according to Cal Fire reports.
The fire, stretching along the Highway 12 corridor, is threatening eastern Santa Rosa and the city of Sonoma.
The Atlas fire has burned 50,383 acres in Napa and Solano counties and is 45 percent contained, according to a Cal Fire report Saturday morning.
The Tubbs fire has burned 35,270 acres of both residential areas and wildlands from northwest Santa Rosa to the edge of Calistoga and is 44 percent contained, according to a Cal Fire report Saturday morning.
Residents in Skyhawk say this morning that 30 to 40 Santa Rosa police cars cruised the neighborhood just after 5 a.m. broadcasting mandatory evacuation orders on loudspeakers, with flashing lights and sirens.
Winds from the northeast were pushing fire toward the neighborhood.
Yulupa Avenue residents report garbage trucks are on their usual schedule a day late because of the fires.
In the dark before dawn, firefighters were aggressively stalking spot fires west of Los Alamos and Adobe Canyon roads.
Police are evacuating Santa Rosa residents west on Hoen Road to Summerfield Road.
MANDATORY EVACUATION orders have been issued for all areas and roads north and south off Highway 12 between Adobe Canyon Road and Calistoga Road. This includes all of Skyhawk, Mountain Hawk and much of Rincon Valley.
Oakmont remains a MANDATORY EVACUATION area.
Evacuate your homes immediately, westbound toward Santa Rosa, southbound on Farmers Lane, westbound on Highway 12. It is recommended to head toward Finley Community Center or Sonoma County Fairgrounds, which are the current evacuation centers
MANDATORY EVACUATION orders have been issued in the Sonoma Valley for:
7th Street East from East Napa Street to Denmark Street;
North side of Denmark Street from 7th Street East to Napa Road;
8th Street East north of 7th Street East;
East MacArthur Street east of 7th Street East
Quail Run Way
This means evacuate immediately.