Red Flag Warning and Cal Fire's growing air force

No matter how long you're delayed clearing safe space, without it, the next two months will be risky for runaway wildfires. As wildfire smoke at the California-Oregon border blankets the North Bay, the National Weather Service's Red Flag Warning extends until 8 p.m. Wednesday evening.

Most at risk for fire are the interior North Bay mountains. The air temperature, low humidity, winds and fuel dryness are in a condition where wildfires can rapidly spread from cigarettes and tiny sparks to downed power, the potential of which has resulted in small, but widespread Public Safety Power Shutoffs. (PSPS)

"The full scope of the Public Safety Power Shutoffs was supposed to be about 8,500 customers. Early this morning, about 2 a.m., we started shutting down customers in waves," said PG&E Spokesperson Meghan MacFarland.

Most at risk in the Greater Bay Area is the high elevation of eastern Napa County; not the most densely populated areas of Wine Country in the western count. PG&E has refined its Public Safety Power Shutoffs program, this time, mostly north and east of the greater Bay Area. 

"PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoffs have become more targeted. We've been able to shorten the duration and reduce the number of customers impacted," said MacFarland.


North Bay residents taking Red Flag Warning seriously, PG&E could shut off power

Cal Fire officials in Napa say they've done work to better help residents be better prepared and protected against wildfires as the community faces a Red Flag Warning and potential power shutoffs.

At Cal Fire's Sonoma Air Attack Base, it's usually a case of wait and then "really hurry up" over their seven-county area. Those here know one thing for sure, the really dangerous months of September and October still lie ahead.

Though this year continues to be relatively mild with only a quarter of the five-year average of burned acres, everything is bone-dry now. 

"We're about a month behind normal as far as that goes. But with the increased winds and lower relative humidity, throughout today, it's definitely elevated," said Capt. Nick Welch, Sonoma Air Attack's Air Tactical Group supervisor.

"All of our bases, fixed wing and rotor wing bases, we're ready to go," said Battalion Chief Jake Serrano heads up the Sonoma Air Attack Base. "We've acquired more aircraft. In this unit alone, we have two additional Type One helicopters that we refer to as 'heli-tankers.'"

One is the massive Sky Crane which can precisely put more than 2,600 gallons of water on target and refill at a nearby lake in one minute. They've been helping and aiding in extinguishing these fires quickly." said Welch.

As conditions change, PSPS outages can increase or decrease as those decisions are made on a minute-by-minute basis.