- Originally published, October 26, 7:14 pm. Note: All times are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) unless otherwise noted.
- October 26, 9:39 pm:
- The mandatory evacuation area for the Kincade fire has expanded. Notably, it now includes my mother’s house. Areas being warned have shifted south (figure 1). Graphics have been updated.
- October 27, 4:36 am:
- To be honest, I’m somewhat perplexed. Even as it appears firefighters are gaining significant control over the Kincade fire and that it has not advanced in the direction of Highway 101, evacuation warnings have now been issued for a relatively small part of northwest Santa Rosa that, ominously, approaches an evacuation center (figure 1). Winds have shifted and are now strongly off-shore. In addition, the evacuation zones are now numbered. Graphics and text have been updated.
- October 27, 8:28 am:
- I haven’t received notifications, which may mean that map updates were out of sync with the notifications I received. It now appears more of Santa Rosa is under mandatory evacuation (figure 1). Winds are now off-shore at 40+ miles per hour. It seems to me that the Santa Rosa evacuation center is now being encroached upon with mandatory evacuation orders on the north and west sides (figure 1). According to the Cal Fire incident page, Kincade fire containment is at 10 percent. Graphics have been updated.
- It is harder for me to keep up to date during the day, while I’m working, but I’m packing my Chromebook today. I will try.
- October 27, 1:05 pm:
- A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for another piece of Santa Rosa, drawing very near the evacuation center there and the Kincade fire looking very much more serious than it did overnight (figure 1). Wind speeds appear to exceed 50 miles per hour. The fire is now up to 30,000 acres and still at only 10 percent containment.
- Amidst all the drama, there is, of course, a very real human toll. Some folks are saying they don’t want to repeat their experience from two years ago. As the evacuation orders arrive, they are considering more permanent departures. And it really is something to think about when you can’t rely on the lights being on, as aquifers draw ever lower, and as suffocating smoke becomes an annual occurrence. This isn’t civilization anymore. It may be spectacular, but it’s hell.
- October 27, 9:12 pm:
- Be sure to look through the slide show in this Press-Democrat coverage. I recognize some of the places as places I’ve been.
They’re ordinary places really. The sort of places you take for granted as you drive right on by. Ordinary, that is, except for those who lived and worked in them. Their lives are forever changed.
And if you feel a sense of deja vu, that’s kind of my point. This is how it’s been for fire after fire after fire. That bravado we always cheer, where victims swear they’ll rebuild, seems hollow now.
- October 28, 4:30 am:
- Containment is now at 5 percent of over 54,000 acres in the Kincade fire. I’m having trouble telling from the Incident map (figure 1) how far into Windsor the fire has reached. The distance from northern Windsor to my mother’s house is a little less but traverses the same rugged dry terrain that a spread from Healdsburg would. It appears there is a shift in the weather pattern (figure 2) but I am not at this moment able to determine its significance. The winds have dropped but that may only be because it is night time. Graphics have been updated.
- October 28, 10:09 am:
- It kind of looks like I failed to publish the 4:30 am update. Oops.
- As of now, the Incident Map (figure 1) is making clear that where previously the main part of the Kincade fire had seemed to be in mountainous terrain, it now seems to be moving towards, if not into, Healdsburg and Windsor. Containment is at five percent of over 66,000 acres. Winds seem to have weakened for the moment and it appears the region is in for a bit of a respite on Monday (today) before conditions worsen again on Tuesday.
- “Cal Fire officials said they were concerned that the fire would jump Highway 128 into fuel-laden land that has not burned in decades.” I’m not sure what the Sacramento Bee reporters mean when they talk about Highway 128, which runs into Mendocino County north of Cloverdale, along Highway 101 to Geyserville, and then east over the mountains into Lake County. Though there’s certainly land there that hasn’t burned yet, Lake County burned before Sonoma County in several massive fires over several years.
My concern however is with the fire’s move toward Windsor and Healdsburg. If the Kincade fire jumps Highway 101 (the latest incident map, figure 1, suggests it’s reaching right to it), which is what the Tubbs Fire did two years ago, and heads towards my mother’s house, I don’t think any of that territory has burned in decades either. And it looks to me like it’s getting close.
In the meantime,
The Kincade Fire and other blazes that erupted Sunday during the heavy winds closed several major roadways, including Interstate 80, the main east-west highway through Northern California between San Francisco and the Nevada state line. I-80 was closed for several hours between Vallejo and Crockett because of brush fires raging at both ends of the Carquinez Bridge, but reopened by mid-afternoon.
Apparently this is happening all over the state. I said earlier that this is hell. It’s hell. And yeah, reminiscent of when the Sonoma County fires broke out in 2017.
- October 28, 8:13 pm:
- The humiliation of Boris Johnson continues as “he was forced to grudgingly accept the European Union’s offer to delay Brexit until January, and then lost a motion in Parliament to stage a general election before Christmas.” (Brexit)
- There’s apparently no real news on the Kincade fire. I am updating the graphics nonetheless. The fire does seem like it is spreading towards Healdsburg if not into it (figure 1) and winds are currently on shore.
- October 29, 3:51 am:
- As if Brexit was ever, even once, really on track, it’s gone off the rails again as Boris Johnson has “abandoned” the withdrawal bill because he wants an election so bad. You know, like he wants Brexit itself. And yeah, I’m not the only one calling bullshit.
- The evacuation orders for much of west Sonoma County, including (just barely) my mother’s house, have been reduced to warnings, though the incident map (figure 1) also seems to show the fire further encroaching on Healdsburg. Cal Fire says it has achieved fifteen percent containment on over 74,000 acres. The winds are shifting again, in line with earlier forecasts. The warning means people need to be ready to leave on a moment’s notice, so this isn’t really clearance for people to return home. This fire still looks incredibly dangerous to me and if those forecasts hold, I expect we’ll see a much more alarming picture later in the day. Text below has mostly been removed—look to these updates instead. Graphics have been updated.
- October 29, 10:13 am:
- Labour will back an election, improving the likelihood that one will occur in December. The call for such an election was likely to succeed anyway, leaving Labour in the unenviable position of going into an election it had opposed. (Brexit)
- People are mad at Pacific Gas and Electric, and have reason to be, especially with the Kincade fire, but it’s worth remembering the climate crisis is a major contributor. Winds are still relatively weak but have now shifted to an off-shore direction. They keep changing how they show the fire intensity and spread in the Sonoma County Incident Map and I am especially unfond of the latest iteration.
I see now (figure 1) that Healdsburg is across the Russian River from the fire and the fire has not jumped the river there. But parts of Windsor, especially the north and east are on fire.
The fire is very close to Highway 101 (figure 1). The road, which is marked as closed, is only four lanes (plus a median) wide there. I can’t imagine that a good gust of wind won’t enable the fire to jump the highway into terrain that I don’t think has burned in a very long time. But they’ve still got a lot of west Sonoma County only on an evacuation warning phase.
I gotta tell you, this doesn’t help to bolster confidence in their logic for how they ordered evacuations and when. Graphics are updated.
- October 29, 2019, 9:06 pm:
- Parliament has approved an election to be held on December 12, which is just what Boris Johnson wanted. I am disappointed the franchise will not be extended to 16-year olds and European Union nationals: Their futures are at stake, even more than those of the old fogies who so desperately want out of the E.U.
- The Kincade fire is now 15 percent contained at over 75,000 acres. The fire remains close to, but on the east side of Highway 101. Evacuation warnings are now shown for adjacent parts of Lake County (figure 1). Winds are strongly in an off-shore direction, but not so strong over such a wide area as before.
- October 30, 4:33 am:
- Little seems to have changed with the Kincade fire since the last update, except that stronger winds are appearing over a broader area. Which is to suggest that firefighters seem to be pretty much holding the line, and that if the wind forecast holds, the worst should be over. For now. Graphics have been updated.
- October 30, 9:05 am:
- Richard Denniss explores the social constructions in economics to explain why economists disagree. I respond with a new blog post entitled, “Cats are smarter than we are. Really.”
- The Kincade fire is at 30 percent containment and nearly 77,000 acres. Firefighters seem to be holding the line in areas I’ve been most concerned with but I think maybe not so well to the north and east. Unfortunately there’s a weird cut off in the graphics in figure 1 that makes this harder to discern. Winds are strong and off-shore but not as strong and not as strongly over as wide an area as before. Graphics have been updated.
- October 30, 7:00 pm:
- Asserting the supremacy of state law, an Allegheny County judge struck down Pittsburgh’s gun control laws, which were passed in the wake of the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting last year.
- My methodology here is weak beyond compare, but I’m guessing from his avatar that Nathan Heller is a lot younger than I am. That said, his recollection of fires in the San Francisco area is about like mine. California just isn’t the place it used to be. It is, as the headline on Annie Lowrey’s exploration of how the Wildlife-Urban Interface came to be so heavily populated proclaims, becoming unlivable. (Kincade fire)
- Winds are still offshore, but not nearly so strongly as earlier even today. Updated containment figures are not yet available. A lot of east Windsor appears to have burned or to be on fire but Healdsburg continues to be spared. Overall, the Kincade fire looks much less active and evacuation orders and warnings seem to be receding (figure 1). My mother will be going home tomorrow. Graphics have been updated.
- Barring unforeseen developments, I will end this issue here. It’s become unusual for me to hold an issue open like this for several days on end but I did so on account of the Kincade fire. At this moment, that no longer seems to be justified.
I’ve been working on my page entitled, “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated anyway, but it turns out that Pittsburgh navigation is sufficiently difficult that it merits a CityLab article. Yes, it really is that bad. And worse.
Vince Guerrieri, “The Map That Unlocked the Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” CityLab, October 25, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/10/pittsburgh-street-map-beltway-system-allegheny-county-roads/600658/
Support for the humanities comes from an unlikely source.
Heather Long, “The world’s top economists just made the case for why we still need English majors,” Washington Post, October 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/19/worlds-top-economists-just-made-case-why-we-still-need-english-majors/
Fig. 1. Screenshot of Sonoma County Incident Map, taken on October 30, 2019, at 7:37 pm EDT (4:37 pm PDT). Click on this static image to open the source.
Fig. 2. 72-hour gif of Northeast Pacific satellite photos, taken two hours apart, as of October 30, 6:00 pm EDT (3:00 pm PDT).
Jonathan Cox, another Cal Fire spokesman, called the evacuation orders a preventive measure against “a worst-case scenario for this fire.” Capt. Stephen Volmer, a fire behavior analyst with the agency, said the winds were expected to start blowing the fire in a southwesterly direction beginning about 8 p.m. [PDT] toward Highway 101.
A lot of Sonoma County still has visible scars from the fires two years ago. The psychic scars are, of course, longer lasting. But all I can really say is that the scenes I have seen there are, in a way, beyond description. There is an impact just from seeing the burned areas, or even just driving around a curve and being confronted with burned vegetation. Let alone seeing pads where homes used to be.
Best wishes to all.
Dale Kasler, “PG&E expands blackouts as fierce winds approach: 940,000 to lose power in California,” Sacramento Bee, October 26, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236691183.html
Dale Kasler and Hannah Wiley, “50,000 face evacuations in Sonoma County as Kincade Fire peril intensifies,” Sacramento Bee, October 26, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236685153.html
Nico Savidge, Annie Sciacca, and Casey Tolan, “‘I don’t want to do this again’: Blackouts and wildfires put Sonoma County on edge,” San Jose Mercury-News, October 26, 2019, https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/10/26/i-dont-want-to-do-this-again-blackouts-and-fires-make-sonoma-county-residents-question-their-home/
Randi Rossmann and Will Schmitt, “Latest: Crews fighting to protect Windsor from approaching Kincade fire,” Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, October 27, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10227533-181/latest-winds-picking-up-in
Ryan Sabalow et al., “Kincade Fire forces evacuations and burns 84 square miles, as containment drops to 5%,” Sacramento Bee, October 27, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236719068.html
Dale Kasler, “Can wildfire risk worsen? Northern California eyes more winds, another PG&E outage,” Sacramento Bee, October 28, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/fires/article236718203.html
Nathan Heller, “San Francisco’s Fire Season,” New Yorker, October 30, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/california-chronicles/san-franciscos-fire-season
Annie Lowrey, “California Is Becoming Unlivable,” Atlantic, October 30, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/can-california-save-itself/601135/
William Booth, Michael Birnbaum, and Karla Adam, “U.K. Parliament rejects Boris Johnson’s call for an early election on Dec. 12, but a pre-Brexit election remains likely,” Washington Post, October 28, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/eu-pushes-brexit-until-end-of-january-british-prime-minister-johnsons-request/2019/10/28/c53839cc-f967-11e9-9534-e0dbcc9f5683_story.html
Karla Adam and William Booth, “Britain sets December date for an election in which Brexit will dominate,” Washington Post, October 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/with-labour-partys-backing-britains-boris-johnson-looks-set-to-get-his-snap-election/2019/10/29/778ed246-f9c9-11e9-9e02-1d45cb3dfa8f_story.html
Max Colchester, “U.K. Opposition Labour Party to Back Boris Johnson’s Call for Election,” Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-k-opposition-to-back-boris-johnsons-call-for-election-11572347134
Peter Walker, “MPs poised to vote through plan for December election,” Guardian, October 29, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/29/rush-to-election-slowed-mp-stella-creasy-backbench-labour-amendment