GEYSERVILLE — A wind-driven wildfire east of Geyserville that has consumed 10,000 acres was sparked near where utility PG&E cut power to thousands of Sonoma residents midweek.
The growing Kincade Fire ignited near Burned Mountain and Kincade roads around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and has prompted mass evacuations for the area, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.
It’s not clear how the fire began, nor whether it was directly in the path of shut-offs. Utility PG&E acknowledged early Thursday that it was seeking more information about the fire and its origin but referred specific questions back to Cal Fire.
“The Kincade fire is near the PSPS footprint, and we are working to gather additional information,” spokesperson Karly Hernandez said in a statement. “There are currently 27,837 customers without power in portions of Sonoma County, which was de-energized at approximately 3 p.m.”
As of about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, the blaze had burned 10,000 acres (15 square miles) and was 0 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. Moving south-southwest, the fire had crossed Highway 128 near Moody Lane, prompting an evacuation warning for the community of Geyserville.
Evacuation orders remain in place for all of Red Winery Road, Alexander Mountain Road, Highway 128 from Geysers Road to River Road including River Rock Casino and all roads off River Road, plus a few homes north of Pine Flat Road.
“If you feel unsafe, evacuate,” the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said in an alert.
The sheriff’s office also warned residents in northern unincorporated Healdsburg and Geyserville to be ready to evacuate. Because of the nearby power shut-offs, authorities went door-to-door knocking on people’s homes to inform them of the evacuations, said Will Powers, public information officer with the Sonoma-Lake-Napa headquarters.
The region is under a red-flag warning because of gusty northeast winds and low relative humidity. As the fire blazed overnight, strong northeasterly winds have pushed the fire south-southwest, Powers said.
“The steep terrain coupled with the winds — it’s made the firefight definitely tough,” Powers said. “In a very complex, dynamic situation like this, tactics are re-evaluated minute-by-minute.”
The Sonoma County shut-offs were part of PG&E’s second-largest public safety power shut off of the month as heavy winds and low-humidity threatened wildfires in portions of the Sierra foothills and North Bay.
The utility has used shut-offs as a strategy to prevent wildfires after its equipment was blamed in a series of deadly blazes.
Earlier this year, state fire officials found that PG&E’s equipment caused the state’s deadliest fire in history — Camp Fire — which killed 85 people as it scorched the town of Paradise in Butte County last November.
Before that, the utility’s equipment was determined to be at the root of 17 fires around wine country in 2017, as well as the 2015 Butte Fire in Amador and Calaveras counties that killed two people.