[11:30AM UPDATE: At an 11:00am press briefing, emergency response officials asked North Bay residents to prepare for the possibility of additional evacuation orders over the next few days, citing a shortage of fire fighting resources and unfavorable weather predictions.
Officials from Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit and local law enforcement agencies said that the LNU Lightning Complex, which is now the second largest fire complex in state history, is considered the top priority in the state to receive additional fire fighting resources in the coming days. However, because numerous other fires are burning throughout the state, there are far fewer firefighters battling the LNU Lightning Complex than there were fighting the Mendocino Complex fires in 2018.
There were roughly 5,000 personnel fighting the Mendocino Complex fires, which grew to 459,000 acres in 2018, compared to the 1,400 personnel now fighting the LNU Complex with hundreds of reinforcements arriving in the past two days, Cal Fire officials said.
Officials stressed that because forecasted weather conditions over the next few days, including more possible lightning strikes on Sunday morning, could cause more fires or worsen current fires, North Bay residents should be prepared to leave at short notice.
You can view the Cal Fire briefing here.]
[10:30AM UPDATE: The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has issued updated evacuation orders and warnings in areas north of Windsor threatened by the Walbridge Wildfire. Check the Sheriff’s Nixle Alert for more information.
Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit is streaming a briefing at 11am. We will update this article with more information based on the briefing.]
The North Bay fire complex enveloping hundreds of thousands of acres in three counties continued to grow on Friday night and is still largely uncontained, according to a 7:00am report by Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit.
The LNU Lightning Complex, which was caused by lightning on the morning of Monday, Aug. 17, has enveloped a total of 314,2017 acres and threatens an estimated 30,500 structures in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties, according to the Cal Fire report.
The fire complex has killed four civilians, destroyed 560 structures and damaged 125 structures so far.
The Hennessey Fire, which represents multiple merged fires in Napa and Lake counties, currently encompasses 261,793 acres. The fire is 15 percent contained.
The Walbridge and Meyers fires in Sonoma County are smaller but less contained. The Walbridge Fire, located west of Healdsburg, covers 50,069 acres and is 0 percent contained, according to CalFire’s morning report. The Meyers Fire, located north of Jenner, is 2,345 acres in size and 0 percent contained.
In a separate morning briefing, Sonoma County’s Emergency Management Director Chris Godley reported that “The [Walbridge] fire behaved itself last night.”
High humidity over night helped to slow the fire’s growth overnight, Godley wrote. Although it did grow slightly on almost all sides, according to a map from the Sonoma County Water Agency, the fire did not move significantly in any one direction.
Numerous evacuation orders and warnings remain in effect in parts of the North Bay threatened by fire as of Saturday, Aug. 22.
Weather Threats Predicted
The National Weather Service has announced a fire weather watch for much of the state beginning on 5am on Sunday, Aug. 23.
“There is potential for dry lightning,” Godley wrote of the National Weather Service warning. “Heavy gusty winds will exacerbate our fire conditions.”
Air quality levels remain unhealthy throughout much of the Bay Area due to heightened levels of fine particulate matter associated with wildfires.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has reported unhealthy levels of smoke in the air throughout the week, especially in the East Bay and Santa Clara Valley, causing health officials to warn that exposure to wildfire smoke could weaken residents’ resistance to Covid-19.
Although BAAQMD is reporting relatively safe air quality levels through much of the North Bay, Sonoma County’s Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase told reporters in a press briefing on Friday afternoon that, after comparing data from several air quality data sources, she had concluded that levels have reached unsafe levels in parts of Sonoma County.
Mase said that air quality levels had reached 156 on the Air Quality Index (AQI) due to smoke from the wildfires.
Levels above 150 on the AQI are considered unhealthy for anyone. Under a state workplace safety rule passed in 2018, employers are required to offer employees working outside N95 masks when the AQI exceeds 150.
State agencies are working on distributing roughly one million N95 masks to farm workers through county Ag Commissioners, Cal OSHA announced in a press release on Thursday, Aug. 20.