Kincade Fire grows to 23,700 acres, 5 percent contained with strong winds forecast

An inmate hand crew works the fire line while fighting the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County near Geyserville on Thursday, Oct 24, 2019.
An inmate hand crew works the fire line while fighting the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County near Geyserville on Thursday, Oct 24, 2019.

Cal Fire and Sonoma County officials provided an update Friday night on the massive wildfire burning in Sonoma County.

The Kincade Fire has grown to 23,700 acres and is still only 5 percent contained, with 600 structures under threat while 49 structures have been destroyed. No fatalities or injuries have been reported.

Evacuations orders remained in place and 2,000 people have been evacuated so far. Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said people should stay home this weekend unless absolutely necessary.

‘Please stay home unless you’re being evacuated,” Essick said. “We’d like you to stay off the roads, stay off the highways so emergency vehicles can get around. We need your patience in these evacuated areas.”

Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt agreed with Essick, saying the wind this weekend could surpass the winds from October 2017.

“The words used are a little ominous,” Rabbitt said. “Like the sheriff said, it’s a good weekend to stay home. Be safe and we’ll get through the weekend together.”

The fire started Wednesday night and quickly grew to 10,000 acres by Thursday morning. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. reported it found a broken jumper in the area where the fire started, and was alerted to it minutes before the fire ignited. The area was not part of the power shutoff that occurred Wednesday. The official cause has not been determined.

Operations chief Tim Ernst of the Los Angeles Fire Department described how the fire progressed during the day and why activity picked up later in the day.

“The day started a little on the slower side as an inversion layer held the smoke down, and that keeps the fire from growing,” Ernst said. “As soon as that smoke inversion raises and the heat picks up, we normally see an increase in fire behavior, which we did see today. We were expecting that behavior change.”

Cal Fire division chief Jonathan Cox warned that with wind gusts projected as high as 65 mph, fire crews may have to evacuate themselves if the winds are too intense.

“In extreme wind events, firefighting becomes fairly ineffective. You can’t fight a fire that’s spotting itself a quarter, a half, or in some cases a mile ahead of itself,” Cox said. “If we have to call for evacuations, it is not a suggestion, it is an order. We believe there is an imminent life threat to you and your property. If we’ve learned anything from the last three years, it’s that early evacuations saves lives.”

Cox also added the fire was being topographically driven uphill as opposed to Wednesday night, when it was being driven downhill by the wind.

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Mack Ervin III covers breaking news and high school sports for The Bee. A journalism student at Sacramento State, he follows auto racing and most other sports.