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More air tankers join fight against North Bay Wallbridge Fire

More air tankers will support the pitched battle against the Walbridge Fire in Sonoma County, a Cal Fire official said Friday.

“We have a robust fixed wing air tanker presence” staged at air bases in Ukiah and Sacramento, Cal Fire Division Chief Ben Nicholls said.

Nicholls added:

“We don’t anticipate any fixed wing aircraft shortages today.”

With major fires burning around California in the wake of Sunday morning’s lightning storms, firefighting resources have been stretched paper-thin statewide. The LNU Lightning Complex fires, which include the Walbridge Fire, have burned nearly 220,000 acres in Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Solano and Yolo counties people and killed four, according to Cal Fire.

But the 21,125-acre blaze on Thursday was made the top firefighting priority in the LNU Lightning Complex. Since then the firefighting effort has been bolstered by welcome additional engine crews and air attack.

That support will continue to grow, Nicholls said at a Friday morning news conference.

He said:

“We’re happy to see anything at this point. We’re starting finally to get into a cycle where we can actually start to get some of the firefighters who have been on the line for 72 hours just a little bit of rest so we can get them back into the fight so that they’re safe and effective.”

Some 19,000 people in Sonoma County – including the Russian River communities of Guerneville and Rio Nido, towards which the fire has been progressing – have been ordered to evacuate or warned that they may be ordered to soon.

About 1,900 people south of the Russian River, near Guerneville, were ordered to evacuate Friday morning, said Chris Godley, the county’s emergency management director.

Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said she believes most residents in her west Sonoma County district have been heeding evacuation orders.

Sonoma County LNU Lightning Complex wildfire and evacuation map as of Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.

Hopkins said:

“I actually do feel pretty confident that those communities that are closer to the lines of the fire, the vast majority of the residents have moved on.”

She said residents looking out for one another have played a big role in convincing people to leave their homes.

She said:

“I do believe that as the fire line grows closer locals are continuing to push other locals to get out now, which is really good. There’s becoming sort of a public peer pressure element in all of our small communities saying, ‘You know what, I know you didn’t think it was a big deal before but the fire’s coming over the ridge line and you need to leave now.”

Late Friday morning, a mandatory evacuation order was also issued for areas surrounding Forestville, a community of about 3,300.

The order applies to all areas south of River Road from Martinelli Road to the intersection of River Road and Trenton Road; west of Covey Road; north of Front Street or Hwy. 116; and east of Martinelli Road.

Mandatory evacuation orders were also issued for the areas near Lake Sonoma in the areas north of Stewarts Point Skaggs Spring Road to the eastern edge of Lake Sonoma.

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