Updated Oct. 28, 10:45 a.m. ET: Firefighters spent the night battling the Kincade fire on the outskirts of the Sonoma town of Windsor and successfully kept the flames outside of town. The blaze has grown to 66,231 acres overnight, according to state agency Cal Fire, and has destroyed at least 96 structures. Winds are expected to calm later this morning, allowing firefighters to slow the advance, but strong gusts are forecast to return Tuesday. Evacuation orders are still in effect for much of the northern half of the county, preventing vintners from reaching their wineries and vineyards to assess damage.
Over in Napa Valley, there are no active blazes, but an evacuation warning is in effect for Calistoga and areas north of it, in case the fire moves southeast from Sonoma. Vintners dealt with more power outages over the weekend. Farther north, the Burris fire in Mendocino County, which started Sunday, has burned 300 acres as of this morning.
Updated Oct. 27, 11 p.m. ET: According to the latest update from the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (Cal Fire), the Kincade fire has burned 54,298 acres since it began four nights ago. (By comparison, the 2017 fires that hit Sonoma, Nuns and Tubbs, burned roughly 56,000 and 36,000 acres, respectively.) Containment has fallen to just 5 percent. Two firefighters were injured today while fighting the blaze, the first reported injuries.
Updated Oct. 27, 10 p.m. ET: Vintners in the Alexander Valley know they're not in the clear yet, but several are giving thanks that they're safe for now. The team at Alexander Valley Vineyards reports that their winery was spared. "[The fire] went through very fast … to be honest we were extremely lucky," Harry Wetzel, head of operations, told Wine Spectator.
Good news came from Jordan Winery as well. “The 1,200-acre Jordan Estate survived the first night of the Kincade firestorm," said Jordan marketing director Lisa Mattson this afternoon. "The fire is currently burning on the southeastern edge of our property, so we are not out of the woods yet."
While most of the staff evacuated yesterday, they worried about some four-legged residents. "Brent Young, our director of ranch operations, evacuated the donkeys and goats yesterday. Unfortunately, he could not evacuate our 60 cows. He went back this morning to check on the remaining animals—cows and chickens—and to fill up the generator with diesel to keep the fermentation tank temperatures controlled.” Mattson reported later that the cows were safe too.
Witnesses reported heavy smoke coming from Knights Valley late in the afternoon, raising fears the flames are heading through there and potentially into Napa Valley. Peter Kay, director of sales and marketing at Peter Michael Winery, which is in Knights Valley, told Wine Spectator, "Updates from the property are sparse. Our ranch manager is onsite. Thus far, we appear to have dodged the bullet. No damage to the winery buildings or vineyards. Fingers crossed that it stays that way."
Oct. 27, 6 p.m. ET: As feared, California’s Kincade wildfire moved rapidly through Sonoma County Saturday night, burning close to 10,000 additional acres and claiming both Soda Rock and Field Stone wineries. With the fire approaching the outskirts of Healdsburg and Windsor, the total area burned had reached 30,000 acres as of Sunday afternoon. Dozens of other wineries sit in the danger zone, but with evacuation orders in place, most vintners are unable to check on their buildings and vineyards. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had already declared a local state of emergency for Sonoma County, has upgraded the alert to a full statewide emergency.
Wind gusts reached 76 mph overnight along the fire lines, pushing flames toward more populated areas, including Healdsburg and Geyserville. Firefighters attacked the blaze aggressively, defending structures and dealing with downed trees and powerlines. Additional evacuations were ordered before dawn for northern Santa Rosa as spot fires flared up near the town of Windsor; this afternoon the northern Napa Valley city of Calistoga was added to the evacuation warning zones. More than 190,000 people have evacuated the region.
“We know last night, in spite of our obvious concerns going forward, it could have been much worse without the battle fought by the firefighters out there,” said David Rabbitt of the Sonoma County board of supervisors at Sunday morning’s Cal Fire press conference. “It was a full-court press they put on last night, and remains the case as we speak.”
Meteorologists report that red flag conditions will remain in effect until Monday with continued high winds and dry conditions. Humidity levels have dipped to single-digit levels, which is dangerously low for fire spread.
The priority for firefighters is to battle the fire on its western and southern sides, where it is threatening the most populated areas. By midmorning fire crews were trying to keep the fire from jumping highway 101. The road was momentarily opened on Sunday but was quickly closed again.
If the fire jumps Highway 101, fire behavior analysts report that it will reach areas that have not seen any fire history since the 1940s, with fuels that are extremely dense, old and dry.
“This is our strongest moment now,” said Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick. “Our staff are out there, and they are ready to go and they are here to serve you.”