The Glass fire had burned 800 acres four miles from downtown St Helena and was burning ‘with a dangerous rate of spread’
Much of Northern California is under a red-flag warning, with the National Weather Service is confident that dangerous fire weather will occur
A fast-moving fire in Napa County on Sunday forced evacuations north of the town of St Helena as large swathes of Northern California faced dangerous fire weather.
The Glass fire had burned 800 acres about 4 miles northwest of downtown St Helena, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and was burning “with a dangerous rate of spread.”
Crews were dispatched to the vegetation fire at 3.50am and it quickly grew to 20 acres, said Tyree Zander, public information officer with Cal Fire’s Napa Lake Sonoma Unit.
“And then it went from 20 acres to about 50 acres within an hour, hour and a half,” Zander said. “And then from 50 acres to 800 acres within a four-hour period.”
Crews reported no containment as of Sunday morning.
The fire was burning to the north and northeast through dry brush, running uphill as it was pushed by winds, Zander said.
“It’s rugged, steep terrain and limited access, and a lot of it is one-way-in, one-way-out type of roads,” Zander said, posing difficulties to both getting fire crews into the area and getting evacuees out.
The Napa County Sheriff’s Office ordered mandatory evacuations along a stretch of the storied Silverado Trail, known for its wineries. Evacuations were ordered between Larkmead Lane and Deer Park Road, and along all of Crystal Springs and North Fork Crystal Springs roads, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Evacuation orders also were issued for College Avenue from Howell Mountain Road to White Cottage Road, all of Freisen Drive and Lommel Road and all roads west of College Avenue and Freisen Drive. Residents of neighbouring areas were urged to sign up for Nixle alerts and to be prepared to evacuate if necessary.
Adventist Health St Helena hospital said it was suspending operations and evacuating its patients due to the fire.
An evacuation Centre was opened at Crosswalk Community Church in Napa.
Emergency officials were being particularly cautious when deciding which areas to evacuate because of the weather forecast for later on Sunday, which raised fears of even more rapid fire growth and unpredictable behaviour.
“We are preparing in advance for the winds,” Zander said. “So we’re going to be more precautious when it comes to evacuations and try to get those out ahead of time, to keep things rolling earlier than later.”
Much of Northern California is under a red-flag warning, which means the National Weather Service is highly confident that dangerous fire weather will occur. Meteorologists warned about strong winds coming from the north and northeast, with gusts of up to 50mph at the highest elevations, and critically low humidity.
The fire weather warnings were issued for areas including the North Bay and East Bay Hills, as well as the Bay Area’s interior valleys, the Sacramento Valley, the northern Sierra, and mountainous areas of the North Coast.
The Bay Area is also under a heat advisory, as Diablo winds associated with a high-pressure system strengthening over the region are expected to bring yet another severe heatwave, the weather service said. The weather system is expected to cut off the typical afternoon cooling sea breeze and marine layer as hotter air comes in from the north and east.
San Francisco and Oakland could see temperatures in the upper 80s to around 90 on Sunday, and temperatures could increase Monday, potentially reaching into the mid-90s. Areas farther inland could hit the mid-90s or low 100s on Sunday and Monday, the weather service said.
California has seen more than 3.6 million acres burn so far this year – a record in the state’s modern history, causing the deaths of at least 26 people and destroying more than 7,000 structures.