Tuesday, October 10, 2017

UPDATE: 15 Confirmed Deaths, Dozens Missing in Fires, 101 Reopens

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 10:19 AM

click to enlarge A plan drops a fire suppressant on a blaze yesterday near Blue Lake. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • A plan drops a fire suppressant on a blaze yesterday near Blue Lake.
UPDATE: Some 17 fires have raced through areas of California over the past two days with 15 confirmed deaths, another 100 people reported missing and an estimated 115,000 acres burned when a perfect storm of gusty winds and low humidity swept across the state.

Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, Butte, Yuba, Lake, Nevada and Orange counties.

Meanwhile, U.S. Highway 101 has reopened in Mendocino County and in Santa Rosa but internet and phone outages continue.

North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire reports via Twitter that 77 cell sites were down at the peak of the widespread outage due to power loss or fire damage. He says “35 are now up and running, more expected online today. Also working a fiber cut in Mendocino Co. Will have an update this afternoon."

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said this morning that the main station is having phone and internet access issues. A fax machine has been converted to receive non-emergency calls at 445-7298. Residents can also try the following numbers:
If the line is busy, try the McKinleyville station at 839-6600 or the Garberville substation at 923-2761. The jail can be reached at 441-5129.

PREVIOUS: Strong winds are fanning the flames of devastating wildfires throughout state and the region, prompting the closure of U.S. Highway 101 near Redwood Valley and evacuations in several counties, including Butte, Mendocino Napa, Nevada and Sonoma.

Just around 9 a.m., Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

Much of California, including Humboldt and Del Norte counties, remains under a red flag warning today, according to the Eureka office of the National Weather Service, with the potential destructive combination of gusty winds from the north-northwest and low humidity in the forecast.

“Wind expected to decrease this afternoon with lighter wind tonight into Tuesday,” the warning states.

Caltrans cautions this morning that U.S. Highway 101 is also closed from 0.6 miles north of Santa Rosa at Shiloh Road due to a fire there. Travelers are urged to use alternative routes and the agency reports that it has “arranged for the federal contractors on Route 36 to allow traffic queues through the work site on Buck Mountain in Humboldt County to improve access to and from Interstate 5.”

In Mendocino County, the Potter Fire has burned 1,500 acres and destroyed 11 structures, according to this morning’s updates from Cal Fire, while the Redwood Fire north of Highway 20 and west of the Mendocino National Forest has consumed 4,500 acres, causing the evacuation of the Redwood Valley.

State Sen. Mike McGuire tweeted this morning that he has been in contact with the county administrator in Mendocino and says the county will be asking for an emergency declaration.

Some cell phone service has been interrupted in several areas, including portions of Humboldt County.

The city of Eureka sent out a notice this morning that its phone system is currently down, part of "a large-scale AT&T outage that is affecting many businesses and residents in the area."
Urgent problems, like a major water or sewer leak or traffic hazard, can be reported to Eureka Police Department’s business line at 441-4044. Officials urged residents not to call 911 unless there is an emergency.

Humboldt fire officials are continuing to battle one local blaze which started on Sunday near Blue Lake, causing the closure of State Route 299 for a time later in the afternoon. The "Blue" fire is at 20 acres and 50 percent contained, according to a Cal Fire report today.

The call came in at 4:40 p.m. Sunday, with 911 reports of powerlines down and a vegetation fire around homes. Multiple agencies responded, including Blue Lake, Cal Fire, Arcata Fire, Fieldbrook, Humboldt Bay Fire, Westhaven, Loleta, while others covered those departments’ stations. In less than two hours, the fire’s forward progress was halted.

While Cal Fire originally reported that a structured was destroyed, an update on the incident this morning corrected that information to say that no buildings were burned. Local photographer Mark McKenna was on scene yesterday. Check out his photos in the slideshow.

Editor's note: Updated with 101 closure near Redwood Valley and the latest number of confirmed deaths from a Cal Fire briefing on Oct. 10.   below.

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Kimberly Wear

Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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