The Kincade Fire started in Geyserville on Wednesday night, Oct. 23, and five days later had burned 75,000 acres, caused the evacuation of large portions of Sonoma County, and threatened to jump the line into Napa County, specifically, Calistoga.
Smoke could be seen on the not-too-distant horizon, smoke was in the air, and Calistoga was put on an advisory evacuation alert Sunday.
Firefighters from around the state converged at the Napa County Fairgrounds. As of Wednesday morning the fire was 30 percent contained, and total containment is expected Nov. 7, according to Cal Fire. High winds and difficult terrain have made fighting the fire a challenge.
The advisory evacuation alert remained in place Wednesday morning, but the city anticipated that it would be lifted on Thursday. Many residents have voluntarily taken shelter elsewhere, including shelters in Napa.
There has been regular mail delivery throughout, and most businesses are open, at least part time, however, Calistoga schools remain closed through Friday. Compounding matters, residents and businesses have been subject to PG&E’s PSPS events and those on the west side of town have been without power for extended periods of time.
The following is a chronology of the events of the past week, taken from the front pages of the Napa Valley Register.
Thursday, Oct. 24
Pacific Gas and Electric began cutting off power to approximately 6,800 homes and businesses in Napa County starting at mid-afternoon Wednesday. The utility said it didn’t de-energize a 230,000-volt transmission line near Geyserville that malfunctioned minutes before the fire erupted. The company reported finding a “broken jumper” wire on a transmission tower Wednesday night.
Friday, Oct. 25
Some UpValley residents could see the glow of the 10,000-acre Kincade fire near Geyserville in Sonoma County early Thursday, but CalFire reported no wildfires in Napa County.
PG&E cut off power to some 7,000 Napa County customers Wednesday afternoon as a precaution since stiff winds were predicted across the North Bay overnight into Thursday morning.
The shutoffs overlapped a red flag warning from the National Weather Service which warned that “critical fire conditions” would persist through the area until Thursday afternoon.
Saturday, Oct. 26
The fire burned at least 25 square miles, whipped up by the strong winds that had prompted PG&E to impose sweeping blackouts in Northern and Central California. Power was restored to most people by Thursday evening, PG&E said, but a new PSPS was imposed on Saturday.
Sunday, Oct. 27
As firefighters try to hold the Kincade Fire from jumping Ida Clayton Road at Highway 128, Calistoga is issued an advisory evacuation alert.
Monday, Oct. 28
Napa was opening three emergency shelters to take in more than 1,300 of the 90,000 Sonoma County residents fleeing the Kincade Fire, after Cal Fire ordered new evacuations in Santa Rosa and other Sonoma County communities Saturday night.
Strong winds created a multitude of outages throughout greater Napa Sunday. Trees fell across power lines and in a few cases houses and cars, knocking out traffic signals at numerous intersections. Countywide, PG&E tallied more than 40 spot outages at mid-day.
PG&E’s public safety power shutoff remained in force across parts of Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Lake Berryessa, Napa, Oakville, Pope Valley, Rutherford, St. Helena and Yountville, with service likely to begin being restored Monday afternoon after the winds die down.
Tuesday, Oct. 29
Cal Fire is working to control the perimeter of the Kincade Fire near Mount St. Helena, the agency’s incident commander Mike Blankenheim said. The move came as stiff Sunday winds feeding the wildfire abated, giving firefighters a brief window to hem in the flames before the expected return of powerful gusts starting Tuesday. A National Weather Service red-flag warning for dangerously windy and dry conditions was in effect from 8 a.m. Tuesday to 4 p.m. Wednesday.
A convoy of fire engines from across California rolled into Calistoga Monday morning, preparing to help defend a city that had been under an advisory evacuation since Sunday.
Many Calistogans took heed of Sunday’s initial evacuation alert and left town by Sunday night. Most of the town still had power as of Monday, and the skies were clear, though smoke from Sonoma County was in the air and on the horizon.
By the afternoon, units from many parts of Calistoga were crisscrossing the neighborhoods near Tubbs Lane, assessing water supplies in case the Kincade Fire were aggressively change direction with a change in the winds.
Wednesday, Oct. 30
PG&E turned off the power to 16,820 Napa County customers Tuesday morning in preparation for the return of stiff offshore winds that heighten the danger of wildfires.
The new round of shutoffs — the third within a week — affected customers in Napa, American Canyon, Angwin, Calistoga, Deer Park, Pope Valley and Rutherford, but not St. Helena.
Despite the return of potentially fire-feeding wind gusts, their direction so far has posed no increase in the threat to Calistoga, according to Kerry John Whitney of the Napa County Office of Emergency Services.
“There’s no impact fire-wise to the county at this point,” he said. “It’s been better in Calistoga today because of how the winds shifted. We’re not aware of any immediate fire threat in Napa County whatsoever.”