California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has declared a statewide emergency as fires rage on both ends of the state — most recently with the Getty Fire that erupted early Monday on the western edge of Los Angeles. The Kincade Fire had already burned more than 54,000 acres — roughly twice the size of San Francisco — as of Sunday night, according to Cal Fire, which said just the fire is just 5 percent contained.
At least two firefighters have suffered injuries since the blaze began late Wednesday night in Geyserville, roughly 75 miles northwest of San Francisco. At least 94 structures have been destroyed, including the historic Soda Rock Winery near Highway 128.
Nearly 3,400 personnel are fighting the massive wildfire, and they will contend with a mix of weather conditions.
In the San Francisco Bay region — particularly the North Bay, which includes Sonoma County — a relentless 36-hour period of howling, desiccating winds will come to a temporary end on Monday by 11 a.m. local time. “Red flag” warnings are in place until that time for most of the Bay Area, for “critical” fire weather that could allow wildfires to spread rapidly and exhibit extreme behavior that would make them hard to control.
The air mass over this region is at record dry levels for this time of year, and abundant vegetation following a wet winter is also extremely dry, which primes the environment for fires.
The Bay Area won’t catch much of a break after Monday, however. The National Weather Service is forecasting another around of “strong, gusty, and dry offshore winds” beginning midday Tuesday and lasting into Wednesday morning, and it’s likely that the red flag warnings will be hoisted yet again by Monday afternoon.
This looming event would be the third major “Diablo wind” event in seven days, something Weather Service forecasters in the region said they “have no memory of” occurring before. Typically these events are more spread out over time. With the next event, winds are expected to be highest in the North and East Bay hills, where gusts up to 65 mph are possible.
The mass evacuations proved controversial in some of the areas further from the fire. On Sunday, Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said he was “100 percent convinced” he made the right call in ordering the mandatory evacuations Saturday and Sunday, according to the Press- Democrat.
“I can understand why someone in Bodega Bay is saying, ‘C’mon. What are you guys doing?’ I don’t take these decisions lightly,” Essick said. ” I look at October 2017 and I still get emotional about this because I was there. … We lost 24 lives.”
The 2017 Tubbs Fire in Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties killed at least 22 people and was one of the most destructive blazes in state history, incinerating more than 5,000 properties — many of them homes in Santa Rosa — and causing more than $1.2 billion in damage.