Governor Newsom declares state of emergency over Kincaid Fires

Governor Newsom declares state of emergency over Kincaid Fires

Photo Credits: KAITLYN PANG / AGGIE

Kincaid, Tick fires ravage California despite statewide power outages meant as proactive measure

The first flames of the Kincaid Fire were reported on Oct. 23 in the small town of Geyserville, located in northern Sonoma County. 

Calif. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency due to both the Kincaid Fire and the Tick Fire in Southern California. The Proclamation of a State of Emergency was signed by Newsom on Oct. 25.

“A significant wind event struck California, resulting in nearly statewide red flag warnings due to extremely dangerous fire weather conditions,” The Proclamation states. “These fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten homes and other structures, necessitating the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents” 

The Proclamation orders, moreover, that all state government agencies comply with the discretion of the Office of Emergency Services and that all citizens must evacuate when told by emergency officials. 

Five thousand firefighters worked on wildfire strike teams to put out the blazes. Tony Voight, a lieutenant engine boss for the City of San Francisco Fire Department, has worked on about 10 strike teams during his 29-year-long career as a firefighter. 

“You focus on protecting life,” Voight said, speaking about efforts by firefighters to fight wildfires against 80 mph winds. “If you protect property along the way, that’s fine. But on that first day and a half of the Kincaid Fire, it was literally just fighting the fire around the buildings, and it was going to go wherever else it goes.”

Four non-student firefighters stationed at UC Davis, along with one UC Davis engine, joined the strike teams as well, according to Nathan Trauernicht, the fire chief of the UC Davis Fire Department. 

            Longtime California resident Rick White, was evacuated from Geyserville during the Kincaid Fire. The increasingly frequent wildfires and blackouts have driven White to consider leaving not only Sonoma County but the state of California. He commented on his experience evacuating with only an hour’s notice. 

            “It was scary,” White said.  “You didn’t know whether you’d be able to come home or not. But when I walked out the back door of my house, and the fire was that close, and the wind was blowing in my face, there was no consideration to stay.”

Stress from the fires was felt on campus as well. The atmosphere was tense as the fires continued to rage and evacuation zones expanded throughout Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties. 

Hannah Eosma, a first-year biology major, has family located near the fires in Fort Bragg, California. Although Fort Bragg itself wasn’t evacuated, all roads to and from the town were closed, making the threat of evacuation even more daunting. Eosma spoke about how the fire negatively affected her ability to complete her schoolwork.

“Focusing was a little difficult, especially when I was trying to text my parents when the cell service was bad and when the Internet coverage was getting really bad,” Eosma said.

Eosma said classes should have been canceled for a few days so students who were impacted by the fires could spend time with family. 

 It is possible that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) was the reason the fire began, despite their widespread power outages at the time. Just seven minutes before the fire was reported, PG&E filed an incident report that documented a broken jumper on a transmission tower near where the fire started. 

PG&E has already been found to have started 1,500 fires in Northern California since 2014. This includes the deadly Camp Fire, which killed 85 people in Paradise, California. 

Due to the many lawsuits sparked by the fires, PG&E has declared bankruptcy.

The company stated that rolling mass blackouts could be expected for the next 10 years. 

“If [PG&E and the state] fail to reach an agreement quickly to begin this process of transformation, the state will not hesitate to step in and restructure the utility,” read a post written by Newsom on Medium over the future of PG&E.

As of Nov. 5, the Kincaid Fire was 80% contained, and all evacuation orders had been lifted. In almost two weeks, it burned 78,000 acres of land and 374 buildings. No lives were lost in the fire. 

Written by: Eden Winniford — city@theaggie.org