Fires

What we know: More PG&E blackouts, Kincade Fire update, air quality in Northern California

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Northern California remained in the grips of wildfire activity and extreme weather Monday. Here’s the latest as of 1:30 p.m.:

Weather: Calm wind now, but only briefly

The National Weather Service lifted its latest Red Flag warning at 11 a.m. after high winds from the weekend – including gusts of 100-mph plus – tapered substantially overnight.

But the weather service said it expects to issue a new red flag warning Tuesday morning, possibly as early as 8 a.m., as winds kick up again, prompting another extreme fire threat situation across much of the north state on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Weather service meteorologist Emily Heller said fire danger this week will be slightly less severe than it was during massive winds on Sunday,” but conditions are still extremely dry. And with ongoing fires, it’s still a critical fire weather situation.

PG&E blackout: More likely to come

With the red flag alert lifted, PG&E officials say their crews are out inspecting power lines Monday in hopes of getting electricity back on for many of the million-plus Northern California residents still without power.

Some north state residents have been without power since Saturday afternoon, when the utility launched its third power shutdown this month in hopes of avoiding wildfires caused by wind damage to power lines.

“PG&E crews began conducting safety patrols and inspections where power had been turned off for safety,” the utility posted on its website Monday. “In some areas where patrols have been completed, we are beginning to re-energize the power lines. Inspections will take place during daylight hours.”

The utility had not, however, listed any timeline for power restoration as of noon.

Moreover, PG&E has warned it likely will conduct another power shutdown across in as many as 32 counties on Tuesday when winds kick up again.

Kincade Fire in Sonoma: Evacuation orders still in place

The Kincade Fire, the largest wildfire in the state this year, continued to burn Monday in the Sonoma County hills east of the towns of Healdsburg and Windsor, with minimal containment.

As of Monday morning, the five-day-old fire had burned 66,000 acres and destroyed more than 90 structures, with much of the damage in hilly rural areas east of Highway 101.

Officials said Monday they are maintaining a mandatory evacuation order for a wide swath of the county. Evacuations are said to affect more than 180,000 residents, making this the largest mass upheaval of residents here since the Oroville Dam crisis of 2017.

Cal Fire chiefs say today is key in making progress on the Kincade fire fight, as winds die down for 24 hours before they kick up again sometime Tuesday.

“There is a lot of iron out there working this fire,” Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said on Monday morning. The fire has been spotting because of the winds, creating small isolated blazes and keeping fire crews scrambling,

“They are strengthening their lines today and tonight” in preparation for Tuesday’s next round of winds, McLean said. “We’re looking at favorable conditions this afternoon.”

Southern California: Getty Fire forces west LA evacuations

A wildfire erupted in the early morning Monday along the 405 freeway corridor, closing the freeway and forcing evacuations in upscale neighborhoods. Among those forced to flee before dawn were former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.

Officials said several homes were burning in the hills above Brentwood, and more than 3,000 homes were in danger. The fire is burning near the Getty Center museum, but so far officials there said the center is not in danger.

“Crazy night man,” James tweeted after he and his family found a place to stay.

Sacramento and Northern California air quality

Air quality was reported as good in the Sacramento Valley at noon, according to the AIRNow website, with light to moderate northwesterly winds dispersing pollutants throughout the day here. “However, light westerly winds in the afternoon and evening will gradually transport smoke from the Kincade Fire into the western portion of the valley.”

Air quality is moderate in the Stockton and Modesto areas, and unsafe for sensitive people in Sonoma and the Bay Area, where smoke from the Kincade Fire is drifting over a broad area.

On Tuesday, “onshore winds early in the day will transport additional smoke into the Sacramento region, increasing particle levels in Yolo, Solano, and Sacramento Counties during the morning hours. In addition, gusty northerly winds developing in the afternoon will generate blowing dust.”

By Wednesday, Sacramento region should see cleaner air, with low levels of particulates.

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Tony Bizjak has been reporting for The Bee for 30 years. He covers transportation, housing and development and previously was the paper’s City Hall beat reporter.
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