Fire remains ‘calm’, but firefighters prepare for night winds

Fire remains ‘calm’, but firefighters prepare for night winds
Fire remains ‘calm’, but firefighters prepare for night winds

No new evacuations were ordered Monday and evacuations remained limited, given the remote and rural location of the fire. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for a single county evacuation zone, 2E2, where 328 residents live, Clay said, citing the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

Another 399 residents in zone 2E3 were under evacuation warning, substantially fewer than the Sheriff’s Office had reported, in what Clay said had been a miscommunication.

Mark Payne was among those evacuees, fleeing his home on West Dry Creek Road with his family when the order came Sunday afternoon and heading to a relative’s home on Canyon Road.

He returned Monday to the Yoakim Bridge, at the edge of the evacuation zone, where he could see his house still standing on a hill above West Dry Creek Road, as opposed to the yards of a smoldering house to the right.

Although relieved, he said he knew he was not out of the woods yet and went to retrieve some property from his home.

“There are real hot spots, and if the wind picks up, it can cause flames,” Payne said.

Even out of bounds, the fire proved stressful, as a plume of brown smoke filled the region, belching flakes of ash and dark particles.

Dan Grout, whose family just moved a month ago into the house they rebuilt on Mill Creek Road after that entire remote area was devastated by the 2020 Walbridge Fire, sent his daughter, his wife and his parents to the condo. a friend in Healdsburg to spend the night. just in case.

Grout, a former leader of Mill Creek COPE, or Citizens Organized for Emergency Preparedness, stayed behind to hold down the fort, keeping up with developments through the WatchDuty app, text messages from the COPE group and messages from the chief local fire department.

Another friend went out to drive one of the family’s four cars back to town, filled with items they fled with in the last fire, as well as family heirlooms acquired from other relatives since then.

“Most people are on high alert,” Grout said.

During slow patrols along West Dry Creek Road Monday afternoon, numerous active hotspots could be spied, areas belching persistent plumes of white smoke. As the breeze increased throughout the early afternoon, those hot spots became more conspicuous but did not burst into flames.

In case they did, teams were stationed at intervals on the driveways along that road.

“The way they do it is: First we have people working on perimeter control,” high up the mountain, away from those farms, explained Cal Fire Capt. Robert Foxworthy, looking west from Yoakim Bridge Road in direction to half a dozen hot spots. .

“They are up there, coming in and forming lines” and filling the spaces between the established lines of fire “so that it doesn’t continue advancing.”

“But we also have teams that do what’s called ‘tactical patrol,’ going in and around all the structures and making sure the hot spots are clear,” Foxworthy said.

Clay said a trio of helicopters dropping water on the fire starting Sunday night and continuing Monday morning appeared to mark the first time specially equipped Cal Fire helicopters were used at night to fight a wildfire in northern California.

The most recent night operations training session for those helicopters and their crews was completed Saturday, the day before the Point Fire ignited near Lake Sonoma.

And one of the planes, based at the Napa County Airport, is what Clay described as a “exclusive-use Chinook helicopter… They flew their first day yesterday.”

So did the crew of the Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter, which transported and dropped water from Lake Sonoma on parts of the fire. That heavy-lift plane is based at the Sonoma County Airport.

The Point Fire has become the first major wildfire in Sonoma County since 2016, according to Cal Fire incident maps, and the largest wildfire in the county since the summer’s fall series of destructive fires. 2020.

During a briefing Monday morning, Paul Fleckenstein, battalion chief of Cal Fire’s six-county Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit, said hand crews and bulldozers had built significant fire lines along the edge north of the fire, until reaching Fall Creek, approximately halfway between the western and eastern edge of the fire.

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