Firefighters Battling Rapid Wildfire in Sonoma County | NBC Bay Area
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Firefighters Battling Rapid Wildfire in Sonoma County

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A wildfire ignited in the North Bay on Sunday, sending fire crews scrambling amid high temperatures and gusty winds. Sharon Katsuda reports. (Published Monday, Sept. 26, 2016)

    A wildfire ignited in the North Bay on Sunday, sending fire crews scrambling amid high temperatures and gusty winds.

    The Sawmill Fire, a fast-moving wildfire burning in Sonoma County, grew to 1,500 acres and was 20 percent contained as of Monday morning, according to Cal Fire.

    The fire, which started just before 11 a.m., is in steep, challenging terrain with difficult access and is threatening structures, Cal Fire said. Fuels are heavy, with areas of grass and pockets of oak woodland. The vegetation is extremely dry due to the past five years of drought conditions.

    "As it progressed and the fire activity picked up, it just took off," said Paul Lowenthal of the North Bay Incident Management Team. "We've had fires up here, we know there's potential for significant fires in this area, so we augmented our response team, we added resources to it."

    Temperatures were in the high 90s with low relative humidity Sunday, and forecasts call for similar conditions on Monday.

    "The humidity levels are going to range pretty low through the night, which isn't a good thing," Lowenthal said. "A lot of good work needs to be done overnight to try to button this thing up and increase the percentage of containment before the temperatures pick back up."

    Photos of Sawmill Fire in Sonoma CountyPhotos of Sawmill Fire in Sonoma County

    Evacuation orders were in place for dozens of homes on Geysers Road in Cloverdale, Cal Fire said. Red Cross opened an evacuation center at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 1402 University St. in Healdsburg, where food, water and shelter are available to evacuees.

    About 240 personnel from nine agencies were assisting in battling the Sawmill Fire, Cal Fire said. There was no timetable for when the flames would be extinguished.

    The cause of the fire was unknown and under investigation, Cal Fire said.

    A second Sonoma County blaze was reported in Santa Rosa's Annadel State Park around 2:15 p.m., according to the Santa Rosa Fire Department.

    Fire crews made quick work of that blaze, containing it to 5 acres, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

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