A wildfire racing through Sonoma County is forcing hundreds to evacuate.
The Kincade Fire sparked in the brush outside Geyserville, in the northern part of the county, on Wednesday night. Propelled by forceful winds, the blaze grew quickly, reaching 10,000 acres – with 0% containment – on Thursday morning.
About 1,700 people – including the entire city of Geyserville – were ordered to evacuate.
Earlier that afternoon, PG&E had shut down power to large swathes of Northern California, including parts of Sonoma County, in an attempt to prevent wildfires from breaking out.
After a slow start, California’s fire season has quickly heated up. Blazes have broken out across the state, some threatening densely populated areas like the San Fernando Valley.
Hundreds of thousands of Californians have lost electricity as the state’s main providers, fearful of strong winds and the potential for downed power lines, took preemptive measures to prevent wildfires precisely like this one. Residents of seven counties in central and southern California are facing similar shutoffs.
Both wildfires and blackouts can be calamitous for public health. Wildfires exacerbate respiratory conditions and other ailments, and interrupt the continuum of care needed to manage chronic diseases. Blackouts force many health care providers to close their doors, jeopardize expensive medications, and can even prove fatal for people dependent on medical devices.
Just two years ago, the Tubbs Fire roared through Sonoma, Napa, and Lake Counties, killing 22 people, displacing thousands, and, in hard-hit Santa Rosa, causing an increase in health problems and economic instability.
Naomi Fuchs, CEO of the Santa Rosa Community Health Center, said providers had seen an increase in both medical and mental health issues in the past two years. The health center lost one of its clinics to the fire.
In response to the Kincade Fire, Direct Relief has reached out to health care partners within 60 miles of the blaze to offer assistance, along with two evacuation centers and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. During emergencies, the organization makes its inventory – which includes air purifiers, N95 masks, and medicines and supplies frequently requested during emergencies – available to health centers, clinics, and other organizations throughout the affected area.
Direct Relief will continue to monitor the situation and respond as needed.