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PG&E admits it might have ignited 21,900-acre Kincade Fire in California wine country

The Kincade Fire continues to burn through the wine country. More orders to evacuate have been issued.

Update Sunday evening: Fire containment was down as 200,000 were evacuated in Sonoma County. Get the latest updates here. 

Update 8 a.m.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office are saying that approximately 180,000 people are under an evacuation order because of the Kincade Fire. 

The sheriff's office tweeted that is the largest evacuation "that any of us at the Sheriff's Office can remember." 

Update: 7:45 a.m.

Evacuation orders have expanded to the parts of Santa Rosa as firefighters struggle to beat back a wind-driven wildfire that started in Northern California's wine country four days ago.

Authorities issued the order early Sunday as historic winds fueled the fire overnight and prompted the state's largest utility company to shut power to 2.3 million people to prevent additional wildfires.

Santa Rosa was hit hard by a wildfire that destroyed thousands of homes and killed 22 people two years ago. The evacuation order affects the northwestern section of the city.

California fire officials say the current wildfire, dubbed the Kincade Fire, that began Wednesday night has burned at least 40 square miles and is only 11% contained.

The National Weather Service says wind gusts topped 90 mph Sunday morning in Healdsburg Hills North, a city in California's wine country.

Update: 4 a.m.

With 90,000 already forced to leave, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office has issued more orders to evacuate the area as the Kincade Fire burns through wine country.

The evacuation order impacts all areas west of Fulton Road, Llano Road, Pepper road to the Marin County Line. This area includes Sebastopol, Bloomfield, and Valley Ford.

Strong dry winds have been a concern for firefighters battling the Kincade Fire. They believe fire behavior and the rate of spread will increase with the extreme winds.

At a Saturday press conference, Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick pleaded with residents to heed evacuation orders, citing deaths that occurred when fire swept through the area two years ago.

“Fire’s not something you can fight,” said Sheriff Essick at the Saturday conference.

“You cannot fight this," he added. "Please evacuate.”

Update: 1:07 a.m.

An evacuation warning was issued for all areas west of Fulton Road, Llano Road, and Pepper Road to the Marin County Line in Sonoma County.

Firefighters continue to battle back the Kincade Fire. Crews expect fierce winds to increase fire behavior and contribute to dangerous rates of spread. 

Update: 1 a.m.

California's inmate firefighters have been called to the Kincade Fire burning in wine country.

Inmate firefighters battled the Kincade Fire in the unincorporated Sonoma County near Geyservillle. 

About 90,000 residents were ordered to evacuate as extreme winds predicted for Sunday morning threaten to rapidly spread the blaze.

RELATED: 9 things to know about California's inmate firefighters

Credit: AP/AP Photo/Noah Berger
Inmate firefighters battle the Kincade Fire in unincorporated Sonoma County, Calif., near Geyservillle on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. About 90,000 residents were ordered to evacuate as extreme winds predicted for Sunday morning threaten to rapidly spread the blaze. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Update: 12:40 p.m.

Another round of evacuations warnings have been issued for the Kincade Fire. 

The evacuation warning has been issued for the city of Santa Rosa, which includes all areas East of  the Western City limit, north of Guerneville Road, Steele Lane, Lewis Road and Chanate Road, to Montecito Avenue to Montecito Boulevard to Calistoga Road, north to the city limit.

Current evacuation orders have caused roughly 90,000 people leave their homes as the Kincade Fire burns in Sonoma County.

The Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital also evacuated about 101 patients to other facilities.

Firefighters are expecting fierce winds to increase fire behavior and contribute to dangerous rates of spread. 

RELATED: What you need to know about Diablo winds

Update: 10 p.m.

The Kincade Fire and the PG&E power shutoffs have pushed the closure of the Sonoma State campus through Oct. 28. 

Get the latest evacuation map from Sonoma County HERE.

Here's our wind forecast for overnight:

Update: 9:40 p.m.

Evacuations have hit a hospital and jail as authorities fight a Northern California wildfire that is spurring blackouts and forcing people out of neighborhoods.

The Sonoma sheriff's office says inmates at the North County Detention Facility in Santa Rosa was cleared Saturday and inmates were taken to be housed in Alameda County.

A Sutter Health statement says Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital started evacuating roughly 101 patients Saturday night to bring them to other facilities.

Cal Fire says severe gusts expected early Sunday could push the fire miles ahead of the main blaze that's chewed through more than 40 square miles (104 square kilometers) of dry brush and timber.

Pacific Gas & Electric's blackouts intended to prevent fire-causing power line damage will impact millions while a huge swath of wine country is under evacuation orders.

Update: 9:20 p.m.

A raging fire, blackouts, and evacuation orders have closed down 23 school districts heading into Monday. 

The Sonoma County Office of Education announced that the school districts announced closures for Oct. 28 due to the power shutoff, fire threat from the Kincade Fire, evacuations orders, and air quality concerns.

Those closed for Monday include:

  • Alexander Valley School District
  • Bennett Valley School District
  • Forestville School District
  • Geyserville Unified School District
  • Harmony School District
  • Healdsburg Unified School District
  • Mark West Union School District
  • Monte Rio Union School District
  • Oak Grove Union School District
  • Piner-Olivet Union School District
  • Rincon Valley Union School District
  • Roseland School District
  • Santa Rosa City Schools District
  • Sebastopol Union School District
  • Twin Hills Union School District
  • West Side Union School District
  • West Sonoma County Union High School District
  • Windsor Unified School District
  • Wright School District
  • Reach Charter School
  • Village Charter School
  • Kid Street Charter School
  • Sebastopol Independent Charter School

90,000 people have been forced to leave their homes as the Kincade Fire burns through Sonoma County.

RELATED: Kincade Fire: Maps, road closures and evacuation information

Update: 8:45 p.m.

The Kincade Fire has forced 90,000 people away from their homes as it burns through Sonoma County. 

Among those evacuating include Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital.

“Our first priority is the safety of our patients, employees and clinicians," said Liz Madison, a spokesperson for the hospital. "We are evacuating patients from Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital.”

Update: 7:05 p.m.

Authorities say about 90,000 people have been ordered to evacuate across a huge swath of Northern California ahead of historic winds predicted near a wildfire that has destroyed dozens of homes.

Cal Fire says severe gusts expected early Sunday could push the fire miles ahead of the main blaze that's chewed through more than 40 square miles (104 square kilometers) of dry brush and timber. The inland towns of Healdsburg and Windsor were told to leave earlier Saturday. By evening authorities ordered evacuations for wine country communities stretching all the way through the Russian River Valley to Bodega Bay on the coast.

Those evacuation orders include:

  • Dry Creek Valley including the upper portion of Westside Road and Mill Creek Road
  • Larkfield and Mark West Drainage
  • All areas west of Healdsburg and Windsor through the Russian River Valley to Bodega Bay.

Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick pleaded with residents to heed the orders, citing deaths that occurred when fire swept through the area two years ago.

“Fire’s not something you can fight,” said Sheriff Essick.

“You cannot fight this," he added. "Please evacuate.”

Strong winds are expected overnight and into tomorrow morning as a Red Flag Warning goes into effect for the North Bay area and Kincade Fire. A strong burst of wind is expected over the fire area.

With the conditions, officials believe the fire will go on to have dangerous rates of spread and high flame lengths as fire behavior increases with the winds.

RELATED: What you need to know about Diablo winds

Meanwhile, Pacific Gas & Electric began cutting power to 850,000 homes and businesses in 36 counties to prevent winds from downing lines and sparking new fires.

Update 12:45 p.m.

An evacuation warning has been issued for the city of Healdsburg, the town of Windsor and surrounding incorporated areas as the Kincade Fire continues to threaten communities in Sonoma County.

According to the Sonoma County Sheriff, the evacuation order includes Highway 128 from the North Knights Valley area to the Napa County Line. The Highway 101 corridor from Geyserville south through the town of Windsor. The entire city of Healdsburg, the town of Windsor, and all areas east of Chalk Hill Road area.

Residents are being asked to leave before 4 p.m. The sheriff’s office is advising evacuees to drive south.

Evacuation centers are located at the Santa Rosa Vets Hall, the Petaluma Fairgrounds, and the Petaluma Vets Hall.

An evacuation warning has been issued for the following areas:

  • Dry Creek Valley
  • Mark West
  • Larkfield Area
  • Fulton
  • Forestville
  • Guerneville
  • Occidental
  • Jenner
  • Bodega Bay

The evacuation warning now extends all the way to the Pacific Ocean and includes areas west of Sebastopol, north of Bodega Highway, and south of Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Road.

This area is still in an area where PG&E is expected to shutoff power in most of Sonoma County later Saturday.

Update: 10:40 a.m.

Following a press conference at 10 a.m., a mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the towns of Healdsburg and Windsor. 

Included in the new round of evacuation orders include all areas East to Chalk Hill Road area, including Hwy. 128 North Knights Valley Area to the Napa County Line, and Hwy. 101 Corridor from Geyserville South through the town of Windsor.

An evacuation warning has been issued for the Dry Creek Valley West to Forestville and Larkfield and Mark West Drainage.

Update: 8:40 a.m.

With 49 structures destroyed, the Kincade Fire grew slightly overnight to 25,455 acres and only 10% containment. 

In Cal Fire's latest incident report, more road closures were announced after the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office released more evacuation information the night before.  

Update: 10:40 p.m.

The Kincade Fire burning in Sonoma County has prompted new mandatory evacuations for surrounding areas.

Immediate evacuations orders have been given for the following areas:

Ida Clayton Road, (including residents on Ida Clayton Road) North to Highland Ranch Road at Campbell Road, East of the 101 between Asti Road and Alexander Valley Road to the Mendocino and Lake County Line, including Lakeview Road and extending South along the Lake and Sonoma County Line to Ida Clayton Road.

Previous evacuation orders caused 2,000 people in Geyserville to leave their homes.

The new evacuation orders join a recent evacuation warning for the Lake County area. Several thousand people in the communities of Gifford Springs, Whispering Pines, Anderson Springs, Adams Springs, Hobergs, and Cobb were warned to be prepared to evacuate at any time if an evacuation order is given.

An evacuation warning also went out to others areas of Sonoma county north of Highway 128 from the Sonoma and Napa County border, east of Highway 128 to Ida Clayton Road.

Crews are struggling in the battle against the 23,700 acre Kincade fire. Fierce gusty winds expected to return Saturday night could drive it through the area with even more intensity.

Update: 9:15 p.m.

The threat from a wildfire that destroyed 21 homes in Northern California's wine country is growing.

The blaze in Sonoma County previously prompted evacuation orders for about 2,000 people in Geyserville.

On Friday night, fire officials warned people in six small communities in neighboring Lake County to be prepared to evacuate at any time if the order is given. Those counties include Gifford Springs, Whispering Pines, Anderson Springs, Adams Springs, Hobergs, and Cobb. Several thousand people live in the area.

The communities are in an area where a 2015 blaze killed four people and burned nearly 2,000 homes and other buildings.

Crews are struggling in the battle against the Sonoma County fire. Fierce gusty winds expected to return Saturday night could drive it through the area with even more intensity.

Update: 7:45 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric said a faulty transmission line near the start of a wildfire in California wine country has prompted a change in strategy about when to shut down such high-voltage lines in windy weather.

Company CEO Andy Vesey (VEE-zee) said Friday that PG&E has been relying on weather forecast at higher elevations to determine whether to shut off a transmission line.

Under the change, it will look at wind speeds at a more localized level and at a lower elevation than it has in the past.

The cause of the fire near the Sonoma County town of Geyserville has not been determined.

But PG&E has said a transmission line in the area was not shut off and malfunctioned minutes before the fire began Wednesday night.

The utility did cut off power to local distribution lines as part of its program to prevent wildfire during hot, dry and windy weather but not to larger transmission lines that carry power across the state.

Update: 7:10 p.m.

A raging wildfire burning in wine country has grown to 23,700 acres with only 5% containment.

The Kincade Fire is burning in Sonoma County, northeast of Geyserville, and caused 2,000 people to flee from Geyserville as mandatory evacuations were ordered. 

So far, there have been no reported injuries, fatalities, or people reported missing due to the fire. 

PG&E instituted power shutoffs after its electrical equipment was to blame for several blazes in recent years that killed scores of people and burned thousands of homes.

However, PG&E said Thursday it didn't de-energize a 230,000-volt transmission line near Geyserville that malfunctioned minutes before the fire erupted. The company reported finding a "broken jumper" wire on a transmission tower Wednesday night.

PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said it was too soon to know if the faulty equipment ignited the fire. He said the tower had been inspected four times in the past two years and appeared to have been in excellent condition.

Update Oct. 25 1:44 p.m. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized PG&E at a press conference in Sonoma County on October 25 that addressed the Kincade fire.  

"[PG&E] simply did not do their jobs, we will hold them accountable," Newsom said.

Newsom visited areas that were impacted by the Kincade fire. He said the destruction he saw reminded him of California wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

Newsom said utilities performing shutoffs is not new within California. San Diego Gas & Electric [SDGE] has performed power shutoffs since 2007, but Newsom said the difference between SDGE and PG&E is that the former focused on customers rather than shareholders. 

 "It is a new day of accountability and a new day of transparency," Newsom said. "I will do my best to make sure that we are never in this position again. This is not the new normal." 

Original story

California's largest utility admitted its electrical equipment might have ignited a wildfire burning in wine country Friday, despite blackouts imposed across the region to prevent blazes. 

In Northern California, a blaze near the Sonoma County wine country town of Geyserville burned 49 buildings and prompted evacuation orders for some 2,000 people.

As of 7:30 a.m. on Friday, the fire burned at least 21,900 acres whipped up by the strong winds that had prompted Pacific Gas & Electric to impose sweeping blackouts affecting a half-million people in Northern and Central California. The fire is only 5% contained.

RELATED: Kincade Fire: Maps, road closures and evacuation information

Most customers had power by Thursday evening, PG&E said.

PG&E instituted power shutoffs after its electrical equipment was to blame for several blazes in recent years that killed scores of people and burned thousands of homes.

However, PG&E said Thursday it didn't de-energize a 230,000-volt transmission line near Geyserville that malfunctioned minutes before the fire erupted. The company reported finding a "broken jumper" wire on a transmission tower Wednesday night.

PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said it was too soon to know if the faulty equipment ignited the fire. He said the tower had been inspected four times in the past two years and appeared to have been in excellent condition.

READ THE LATEST ON PG&E SHUTOFFS:

In shutting off the electricity, PG&E cut power to the distribution lines that supply homes but not to its long-distance transmission lines.

In Southern California, firefighters on the ground and in the air struggled to protect homes surrounded by trees and brush.

In some places, they failed. As hot embers flew, subdivision homes and rural ranch properties were damaged or destroyed in the Canyon Country area of Santa Clarita and nearby Castaic.

Alejandro Corrales tearfully watched her home burn on a ridge in Canyon Country, taking with it her mother's ashes, other belongings and possibly a pen full of pet sheep.

READ MORE ON CALIFORNIA'S WILDFIRES:

"I'm literally seeing sticks and fire of what used to be our home," she told KCBS-TV.

"Everything in the house is gone," Corrales said. "The panels on one of the pens where we have some rescued sheep was too hot for my daughter to open, and so she couldn't let them out. ... So I'm probably sure that we lost them, too."

Some residents tried to fight the blaze with garden hoses. People rushed to rescue dozens of horses, donkeys, goats, a pig and an emu.

Officials said a firefighting helicopter couldn't fly after a collision with a bird damaged its windshield.

The high winds were expected to persist through Friday. Southern California Edison, which shut off electricity to more than 31,000 customers on Thursday, was considering additional power cuts to more than 386,000.

While the high winds in Northern California had died down by Friday, they were expected to pick up over the weekend, with gusts of 40 to 60 mph in many places, and PG&E warned it might blackout an even larger region.

PG&E chief meteorologist Scott Strenfel said Northern California could be in for the strongest offshore winds in years.

Meanwhile, a wind-whipped fire destroyed homes near Los Angeles.

More than 50,000 people were under evacuation orders in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles as hot, dry Santa Ana winds howling at 50 mph drove the flames into neighborhoods. The fire burned at least six homes. Officials reported that there were no injuries related to the incident.

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WATCH MORE: As thousands in California evacuate due to fires, others prepare for more PG&E outages | Daily Blend