Walbridge Fire burns 50,000 acres, officials concerned about wind shift, thunderstorms

ByCornell Barnard, Lauren Martinez KGO logo
Sunday, August 23, 2020
Thunderstorms main concern for LNU Lightning Complex fire
As of Saturday, CAL FIRE says the Walbridge Fire has burned more than 50,000 acres and is 0% contained. A shift in winds to the northeast prompted new evacuation orders, which included everything west of the Windsor City Limits into the Dry Creek Valley.

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (KGO) -- The Walbridge Fire burning in Sonoma County is the top priority within the LNU Lightning Complex. At over 50,000 acres and 0% containment, CAL FIREsays the concern is wind shift and thunderstorms expected on Sunday.

"With the wind shift and then also looking ahead at the potential for thunderstorms moving through the area -- there were additional warnings and orders that went into effect -- that somewhat stretch along the west side of Highway 101 and in the area south of Cloverdale to the area of Windsor. So that's a large area, that's a big geographical area but it also shows what the potential is out here," Paul Lowenthal, public information officer for CAL FIRE said.

BAY AREA FIRE UPDATES: Latest on evacuation orders, road closures here

Lowenthal said even though a lot of work is being put to contain the fire to the north and the east, there's still a lot of work to be done on the Russian River side.

"The concern still focuses on Guerneville all the way out to Rio Nido and Hacienda. But as well now wrapping all the way around from the Guernville side up and around to Healdsburg out through Dry Creek and Lake Sonoma," Lowenthal said.

Healdsburg resident Elliott Doss built his home and barn off West Dry Creek Road. He stays in town but comes back every morning to water his property.

"I've got sprinklers on the roof, both my house and my barn. I've been managing my yard the best I can with defensible space and just watering," Doss said.

He takes pictures of neighbors' homes and posts them on social media. He said he already knows some who have lost property that live above the ridge.

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"It's really hard to you know have to talk with them and console them and wish them the best and know that you're at any moment kind of in the same situation," Doss said.

In Windsor, residents like Simone LeNoir came out to see what conditions looked like. She was born in San Francisco. She worked for the forest service 30 years ago.

"In the period of time I've lived here, it's been excessively bad. The fires have been excessively bad. Our fire season has expanded by months," LeNoir said.

She said for the first time today, she's thought of moving out of California.

"We've been evacuated practically every fire. Not being able to sell your home maybe because no one's going to want to live here. Or not being able to get fire insurance for your home and for you possessions -- those are sobering thoughts," LeNoir said.

Residents in Forestville like Carla Batchelder, got the order to leave from the loudspeaker of a Sonoma County Sheriff's patrol car that mandatory evacuations were happening. The Walbridge fire was on the move.

VIDEO: How to prepare for a wildfire evacuation

If there's time, here is a list of essentials to take with you during a wildfire evacuation. Above all else, follow instructions given and get out of harm's way.

"This is bad, I better get my horse trailer hooked up," said Batchelder.

Susan and Richard Wagner were packing up all the belongings from their home that could fit in their cars.

"Wherever we end up, we can look around and it'll look like home," said Richard Wagner.

Others are choosing to stay.

"I'm going to send my wife and kids, but I'll stay until the bitter end," James Graham said.

The fire's path of destruction was found on Wallace Creek Road outside Healdsburg, where several homes were reduced to rubble, only the chimneys remained. Not far away, fire crews took down a charred redwood tree that was in danger of falling.

RELATED: How LNU, CZU & SCU Lightning Complex Bay Area fires got their names

More lightning isn't good news for Ann Craighead, who is choosing to stay at her home.

"We don't need it but we can't control Mother Nature," said Craighead.

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Get the latest updates and videos on the CZU, LNU and SCU Lightning Complex Fires here.