Fires spark as winds pick up

PG& E cuts power to more than 360,000 homes, busi­nesses as dan­ger es­ca­lates

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Nora Mis­hanec and Nanette Asi­mov

An on­slaught of heavy winds blast­ing across bonedry land led Pa­cific Gas and Elec­tric Co. to shut off power in parts of the Bay Area and dozens of other coun­ties Sun­day to re­duce wild­fire risk, as blazes erupted in Shasta County and were largely con­tained by evening.

Amid warn­ings of winds rac­ing along at free­way speeds, au­thor­i­ties urged Bay Area res­i­dents in high­risk fire zones — in­clud­ing the hills of Berke­ley, El Cer­rito, Kens­ing­ton, East Rich­mond Heights and El So­brante — to con­sider re­lo­cat­ing ahead of the strength­en­ing winds.

Cal Fire ex­tended a red flag warn­ing through 5 p. m. Tues­day for East and North Bay moun­tain ar­eas. A red flag warn­ing for coastal and val­ley ar­eas and the Santa Cruz Moun­tains was in ef­fect through 11 a. m. Mon­day.

The Bay Area’s most dan­ger­ous winds of the year

whipped up Sun­day evening and were ex­pected to con­tinue into Mon­day morn­ing, with gusts reach­ing 50 mph at lower el­e­va­tions, the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice said.

On Sun­day evening, a weather sta­tion on Mount St. He­lena recorded wind gusts of up to 80 mph. On Mount Di­ablo, wind gusts reached 62 mph, as the weather sys­tem moved into the Bay Area from the north­east.

Cal Fire of­fi­cials wor­ried that “hur­ri­cane-type winds” could spread a dozen ma­jor wild­fires that are still not fully con­tained, part of Cal­i­for­nia’s worst wild­fire sea­son on record with more than 4.1 mil­lion acres burned across the state this year.

At least three new fires — the Point Fire, Der­sch Fire and Olinda Fire — ig­nited and quickly scorched more than 340 acres, mainly in Shasta County, al­ready hard hit this sea­son by the deadly Zogg Fire. The Point Fire, the largest of the blazes at 275 acres, was 80% con­tained by Sun­day evening; it also reached into Te­hama County to the south, about half­way be­tween Red­ding and Red Bluff.

The Der­sch Fire, at 133 acres, was 75% con­tained by Sun­day night, as was the much smaller Olinda Fire, at 5 acres, ac­cord­ing to Cal Fire. Crews also con­tained about five other smaller fires that erupted Sun­day and were fed by 40 mph winds, said J. T. Zullinger, a spokesman with Cal Fire’s Shasta-Trin­ity unit. No causes have yet been de­ter­mined.

PG& E an­tic­i­pated that its black­outs would af­fect more than 360,000 cus­tomers across 36 coun­ties and 17 tribal com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing about 92,000 peo­ple in every Bay Area county ex­cept San Fran­cisco. By Sun­day at 9 p. m., black­outs had hit Napa, Sono

ma, Solano, Con­tra Costa, Marin and Alameda coun­ties, with shut­offs ex­pected to reach San Ma­teo and Santa Clara coun­ties shortly there­after.

The Bay Area cities with the most shut­offs were ex­pected to be Oakland ( 10,885 homes and busi­nesses); Orinda ( 7,641); Mor­aga ( 5,465); Lafayette ( 3,285); Fair­fax ( 2,960); Mill Val­ley ( 2,325); Cal­is­toga ( 2,277) and Santa Rosa ( 1,957).

Nu­mer­ous parks around the Bay Area were closed be­cause of the shut­offs and fire risk — in­clud­ing Muir Woods, which the Na­tional Park Ser­vice said would be closed Mon­day.

PG& E has scaled back its shut­off plans since Fri­day night, spar­ing more than 100,000 homes and busi­nesses orig­i­nally slated for firepre­ven­tion black­outs, with the big­gest pro­por­tional re­duc­tions in black­outs go­ing to San Ra­mon, Dublin, Santa Rosa and Saint He­lena.

The Berke­ley Uni­fied School District, ex­pect­ing many teach­ers to lose power at home, en­cour­aged them to broad­cast lessons from school build­ings — ex­cept from John Muir Ele­men­tary, which was on the list to be blacked out. The district, which serves 9,800 stu­dents at 15 schools, alerted fam­i­lies Sun­day about the shut­offs.

The pre­emp­tive shut­offs, or­dered for the fifth time this year, be­gan at 10 a. m. near Red­ding and Mount Shasta, af­fect­ing around 26,500 cus­tomers in Shasta, Te­hama, Glenn, Co­lusa and Lake coun­ties.

Most parts of the Bay Area should see a re­turn to safer weather by mid­day Mon­day, though some spots might not calm down enough un­til Tues­day morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to PG& E of­fi­cials. The com­pany ex­pected to start restor­ing power Mon­day evening.

The Point Fire, which started 16 miles south of Red­ding in Cot­ton­wood ( Shasta County), men­aced the ru­ral town of 3,300 peo­ple through­out much of the day, but Cal Fire soon gained the up­per hand.

Cot­ton­wood res­i­dents stock­piled bot­tled wa­ter and non­per­ish­able foods from the Hol­i­day Mar­ket hours after the fire broke out on the town’s south­ern edge. Many of them lost power Sun­day morn­ing, in­clud­ing su­per­mar­ket man­ager Ed­die DeAn­gelo.

“We’re fight­ing two things at the same time here,” DeAn­gelo said of the black­outs and the blaze just miles from his store.

The mar­ket had no gen­er­a­tor, and DeAn­gelo said he hoped power would re­main on as shop­pers blitzed the store for ne­ces­si­ties. ( It did, ac­cord­ing to the PG& E out­ages map.)

On Sun­day evening, Cal Fire re­port that it had fully con­tained the Pope Fire, which started Fri­day in Napa County and scorched 61 acres around Lower Chiles Val­ley and Chiles Pope Val­ley roads.

Noah Berger / As­so­ci­ated Press

An air tanker drops re­tar­dant on the Olinda Fire burn­ing in An­der­son ( Shasta County).

Pho­tos by Scott Straz­zante / The Chron­i­cle

An AC Tran­sit bus heads down a dark­ened Moun­tain Boule­vard in Oakland’s Mont­clair neigh­bor­hood dur­ing Pa­cific Gas and Elec­tric Co.’ s power shut­off as heavy winds hit the Bay Area.

Moun­tain Mike’s Pizza em­ployee Harry Virk sits on his car on LaSalle Av­enue in Oakland mo­ments after the shut­off started.

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