Night has fallen on the North Bay as the historic exodus of tens of thousands of people from areas effected or endangered by the Kincade Fire continues. Due to preventative power shut-offs throughout Sonoma County, the evacuation is shrouded in relative darkness.
Mandatory evacuations are in effect for areas as disparate as Bodega Bay, Graton, Guerneville, Jenner, Healdsburg, and Windsor. A record number of people, upwards of 83,000, were fleeing their homes as a red flag warning officially went into effect for the entire North Bay at 8 p.m. tonight.
UPDATE: As of 7:47 a.m., Sunday morning, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Twitter account says that approximately 180,000 people are now under the evacuation order. “The is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff’s Office can remember. Take care of each other,” reads the tweet.
Approx 180,000 people under evacuation order due to #KincadeFire. This is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff’s Office can remember. Take care of each other.
— Sonoma Sheriff (@sonomasheriff) October 27, 2019
“What we expect as we approach the midnight hour, roughly between 10 and 12 p.m., a very strong burst of northeast winds are going to hit the fire area. Those winds will increase through the night and peak early Sunday morning,” explained Ryan Walbrun, a National Weather Service meteorologist during a press conference streamed live to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Facebook page. “We are expecting exceptional wind speeds of 60 to 80 mile an hour wind gusts.”
At present writing, the fire has consumed nearly 26,000 acres and is 10 percent contained. 77 structures have been destroyed, including 31 residential dwellings. Meanwhile, 2,831 emergency personnel are on the line. The fire began the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 23, in Geyserville and is not expected to be entirely squelched until Nov. 7.
Despite the nightfall and the fact that PG&E has shutoff power for much of the county, there is a bright spot in Petaluma at the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Building, an emergency evacuee shelter.
“We’ve been on generators since 10 a.m., the county was really proactive and brought a big generator unit and rewired the building to run off of the generator ahead of the power outage,” said Adrian Williams, a volunteer coordinator and Petaluma resident, who also volunteered to help coordinate the shelter back during the fires of 2017. “The second we heard it was opening back up we were back down here—a lot of the same people.”
By 6 p.m., Williams had already seen 56 evacuees arrive at the facility, which can accommodate up to 400 individuals.
Williams said the evacuees are coming from all points north.
A live evacuation map provided by Sonoma County’s Office of Emergency Service can be seen here.
“It’s a little stressful at first but then you get in a rhythm,” said Williams. “You definitely feel it but it also feels good on the flip side. We saw a lot of the same families and people from last time who needed help.”
Evacuees seeking shelter can find assistance at the locations below according to Sonoma County’s SoCo Emergency web page:
Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building
1351 Maple Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
100 Fairgrounds Dr, Petaluma
Petaluma Veterans Building
1094 Petaluma Blvd S, Petaluma, CA 94952
Petaluma Community Center
320 N McDowell Blvd, Petaluma, CA 94954
Sonoma County Fairgrounds (Large animals only)
1350 Bennett Valley Rd, Santa Rosa