Dry, gusty conditions trigger red flag warning in North Bay

Pacific Gas & Electric elevated its concern for possible power shutoffs as a hot spell moves through the North Bay this weekend. On Saturday night, many North Bay residents will be looking up to the hills for signs of trouble. 

Tinder dry conditions and gusty winds from the warm inland has once again caused the National Weather Service to declare a red flag warning starting at 8 p.m. for elevations about a thousand feet, in Sonoma, Napa, and Marin counties. 

Red flag conditions will continue overnight until 10 a.m. Sunday. Steady winds of 10 to 20 mph will be accompanied by gusts of 35 mph. 

That's below what's generally needed for a PG&E Public Safety Power Shutdown. But the utility is considering it as conditions change. 

"And now it's just been bumped up one level to 'elevated.' It does not mean that we're planning on initiating a Public Safety Power Shutoff right now," said Deanna Contreras, spokeswoman for the utility. 

Nonetheless, those conditions make any wildfire—from any source, spread rapidly. 

"You're on guard, You know, you're constantly on guard," said Robert Salido, who rebuilt his Coffey Park home last year. 

Any red flag warning is a deep concern to his family, one that lost everything in the fire. Those concerns are exacerbated by sirens, winds, and smells. 

"You know, you kind of flashback to that evening. And, it's the same thing when you smell smoke," Salido said. "If I smell a grassfire around here, I get nervous and I start to look around,"

But, there has been one big change.

"Everybody's really close-knit. It's such a tighter community here than before and I think it's wonderful," said Salido.

Paradise Ridge Winery in Fountain Grove will be the first business to reopen in the central fire area. 

"Definitely, when the winds come up, I do get that feeling that I had the night of the fire," said Sonia Byck-Barwick, a second-generation owner of the winery. 

The smell of smoke is an issue for her and others. 

"I do feel nervousness for people more around me. For me, I think I'm more stoic about it. If it happens, there isn't so much we can do," said Byck-Barwick.

At the insistence of the family's 87-year-old patriarch, come early December, its new tasting room and offices will open to the public, replacing the sounds of construction with Christmas bells. 

"For the most part, I feel like we're better prepared. The community is better prepared," said Byck-Barwick.