Firefighters are warily watching for “violent” winds expected in California’s wine country Thursday that could fan the flames of a massive wildfire.
The Glass Fire north of San Francisco has destroyed 250 buildings and is threatening another 24,000 structures across Napa and Sonoma counties.
As of Thursday morning, the blaze had charred more than 88 square miles and was 5% contained.
More fire crews and equipment were deployed overnight in and around Calistoga, a town of 5,000 people in the hills of Napa County, after a forecast called for strong winds amid extreme and low humidity.
An evacuation order covers the entire population of the small town, known for hot springs, mud baths and wineries.
Firefighters are in place to defend homes in the Calistoga area, although flames have not reached city limits “by any stretch,” according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mark Brunton.
Fire crews are concerned about the fire’s potential for rapid spread with a red flag warning in effect until Friday night, coupled with hot, dry weather and “extremely dry” vegetation, Brunton said.
More than 2,000 firefighters are battling the blaze in Napa and Sonoma counties.
The fire is impinging on the outskirts of Angwin, where structure defense was also in place. Crews were using aircraft in the firefight when possible, but heavy smoke has often forced aerial units to stay grounded.
Several evacuation orders and warnings are in effect, and residents should be prepared for more to be issued, Brunton said.
“Although we have been talking about repopulation in some areas and many people are getting anxious to get home, there’s real certainty that we could have additional evacuations if the fire begins to burn into the areas that have been described today,” Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said.
Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said wildfires have consumed more than 3.6 million acres in California since Aug. 15, shattering other records set in recent years.
Statewide, there are currently some two dozen major fires. And in the past 24 hours, crews put out 23 smaller blazes that “could have been fires like this one,” according to Porter.
“It’s likely that over the next day or two we will crest the 4 million-acre mark. The biggest year before this year was 1.54 million,” he said. “We are dwarfing that previous record and we have a lot of season left to go.