Latest: 90,000 Sonoma County residents evacuated ahead of Kincade fire
More than 83,000 people in Sonoma County between Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean were ordered to evacuate Saturday night as authorities grew increasingly concerned the Kincade fire could burn all the way to the coast.
The expanded evacuation zone, announced Saturday evening, is the largest mass evacuation in Sonoma County history.
Residents of Healdsburg, Windsor, Graton, Guerneville, Jenner, Bodega Bay and a sprawling area in between were ordered to leave their homes as Cal Fire braced for the arrival of a powerful windstorm that could drive flames west.
On Saturday morning, authorities ordered more than 44,000 people along the Highway 101 corridor between Geyserville and Windsor to flee, clogging southbound Highway 101 with traffic as residents sought to reach safety.
At dusk, authorities expanded the mandatory evacuation zone to include an additional 43,000 residents in west Sonoma County, between Highway 101 and the coast, who were warned earlier in the day to prepare to evacuate if conditions turn for the worse.
Two new areas were placed under evacuation warnings: a section of west county surrounding Sebastopol that extends east to Fulton Road and south to Two Rock; and, a section north and east of Santa Rosa, to the northeast of Highway 12, including Calistoga and Petrified Forest roads to the Sonoma/Napa county line. Evacuation from these areas is not mandatory, but authorities encourage residents to be prepared to flee.
Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick urged people living in the mandatory evacuation zone to leave the area before 4 p.m., one hour before PG&E was scheduled to turn off power in the North Bay to prevent its equipment from sparking fires during a windstorm that is expected to reach historic proportions.
“You cannot fight this. If you are under an evacuation order, you must leave,” Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said at a 6:30 p.m. news conference.
The difference between Saturday’s evacuation orders and the deadly 2017 wildfires, Essick said, is the time to give residents advance warning so they have time to flee.
The winds are expected to shift abruptly between 9 and 11 p.m. tonight, bringing gusts that could reach 60 to 80 mph from the northeast, National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Walbrun said. The winds, which could push the Kincade fire to the southwest and population centers along the Highway 101 corridor, will not begin to ease until midday Sunday, resulting in an unusually long and intense wind event, he said.
“We are prioritizing safety right now for what is potentially the worst-case scenario,” Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox said.
Here’s the latest information about the Kincade fire:
Authorities added a section of north Santa Rosa to an evacuation warning zone, notifying residents to be prepared to leave if conditions worsen.
The zone includes all areas of the city north of Guerneville Road, Steele Lane, Lewis Road, Chanate Road and Montecito Boulevard. It stretches east to Calistoga Road and west to city limits.
It includes Coffey Park and Fountaingrove, two sections of the city ravaged by the 2017 wildfires.
Evacuation zones can be viewed on the updated Sonoma County Incident Map.
The Kincade fire grew to 25,955 acres by nightfall Saturday, but firefighters were still only able to build containment lines around 11% of the blaze.