Sonoma County's massive Kincade Fire grew to 75,415 acres in its fifth day, growing in footprint by around 9,000 acres, but picking up thousands of acres in containment lines to reach 15 percent containment during relatively calm winds on Monday.
The fire has destroyed 123 structures, including around 57 homes — up from 40 homes as of Monday morning. There have still been no deaths or missing persons from this fire, due in large part to evacuations that began as the fire broke out last Wednesday and continued through the weekend.
Speaking to the Cal Fire strike team Tuesday morning, a National Weather Service forecaster warned fire crews not to feel complacent after Monday's relative calm, and to "hold tight for 24 hours more hours," as KPIX reports. "On this incident I’ve probably put together two of the craziest forecasts I ever written – one over the weekend and one for today." He went on to explain that winds blowing from the northeast have already begun and gusts will be up to 30 to 50 miles per hour starting Tuesday morning. "The key period is late this afternoon through about 10 o'clock tonight, when [the fire's] gonna want to push."
The concern will be that the fire will begin pushing to the south and west toward the 101 corridor where home densities increase.
An image from this interactive, auto-updating map, captured below, shows some of the eastward progress of the fire, which expanded into a portion of Lake County overnight.
The New York Times also published a map showing that the area of the most intense fire overnight was on the northeastern flank you see above, with much of the southern portion merely smoldering.
As a result, new evacuation warnings were issued for parts of Lake County, as the Chronicle reports, with the fear that flames could make their way toward Middletown — which last burned in the Valley Fire in 2015.
Thus far, the Kincade Fire has been held at bay outside the cities of Healdsburg, Windsor, and Santa Rosa, though the ultimate test appears to be on its way Tuesday as winds shift the fire in the direction of 101.
As the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported, as flames began marching closer to areas ravaged by the 2017 Tubbs Fire — in the area of Shiloh Estates, Wikiup, and the Mark West Springs corridor — Sonoma County’s main dispatch center issued an "all call" tone that it had never used before, calling for every local fire district to respond to the area. For Sonoma County firefighters, defending this area is seen as a "deeply personal battle" given how many property owners are still rebuilding, and how much loss of life there was here and in Santa Rosa to the south just two years ago.
An estimated 185,000 people remain evacuated, and 90,000 structures remain under threat from the flames.
"We’re on the cusp of cautious optimism,” said Cal Fire Division Chief Jonathan Cox at a Monday press conference, per the Chronicle. But clearly Tuesday's Red Flag Warning and potentially high winds have everyone still on edge, and firefighters exhausted.
Sonoma County Fire District Chief Mark Heine was similarly positive, speaking to the Chronicle, saying of the damage so far, "It could have been way worse."
In another news conference, Governor Gavin Newsom said, "I recognize and everybody recognizes, this cannot be the new normal. We cannot absorb this year after year."
It's a moot point for this fire, but for an interesting discussion of how PG&E's monopoly on power in Northern California is essentially why its shoddy power infrastructure keeps sparking wildfires, see this piece from the American Institute for Economic Research.