For updates on Tuesday, October 10, please see this article.
UPDATE 11:18pm, 10/9/17:
The California Highway Patrol is reporting that Hwy. 101 is now open between Willits and Redwood Valley!
UPDATE 9:45, 10/9/17:
We have a few updates on the fire on details about the situation at Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits. We have limited internet connectivity so we’ll be brief, scroll down to read more info.
Howard Hopsital is NOT being evacuated at this time. We spoke with the hospital CEO Jason Wells and CFO Judson Howe. They explained that the hospital staff has trained for just these situations and has contingency plans in place in case of an evacuation, including the possibility of evacuating patients to Ukiah with an escort down the 101, or moving patients to Fort Bragg. However, they are in communication with CalFire, city fire officials and the sheriff and do not believe any evacuation is imminent.
The hospital is open and operating for emergency purposes but not elective procedures.
The hospital is also safe for patients even with the smoke in the area. It is designed with disaster situations in mind and has air filters deployed throughout.
A couple other details: the Redwood Complex fire has grown to 19,000 acres, with 0% containment, and mandatory evacuation orders in Pine Mountain, and voluntary evacuations in the Little Lake Valley, east of the Bypass. Two fatalities have been confirmed by the sheriff.
The 101 remains closed in both directions between Redwood Valley and the top of the Ridgewood Grade.
UPDATE 6pm, 10/9/17: The Redwood Complex fire continues to rage and has spread, now affecting areas of Pine Mountain. The evacuation areas have expanded with Pine Mountain now under a mandatory evacuation order, all the way from Camp Wente to Berry Creek and down to Eastside Creek, to the east of Willits. Howard Hospital in Willits has been placed under an evacuation warning in case they will need to evacuate later.
The Sheriff’s Office has tweeted that it does not look Brooktrails will be evacuated tonight.
Cell and internet service remains unavailable for most of the northern inland Mendocino region, including Potter Valley, Redwood Valley, and Willits, with reports indicating there is no service in large portions of the coast and Laytonville. Power is also out in large parts of the city of Willits, including Mariposa Market and the Noyo movie theater, and many businesses are unable to accept credit cards or debit cards due to the power outtages.
Residents of Van Arsdale Rd. in Potter Valley are also being evacuated. Kym Kemp has a map here.
The Sheriff’s Office, along with representatives from other local and state emergency response agencies, will be holding a press conference tomorrow, Oct 10, at 8am in Ukiah in front of the Mendocino County Administrative Building on Low Gap Road. MCSO will be tweeting updates on their Twitter feed here.
More emergency information can be found by calling the county’s Emergency Operations Center at (707) 467-6428. See the article below this one for more information about updates, outtages, and more. KLLG in Willits is broadcasting updates regularly, as are other radio stations throughout the area when they have power.
Highway 101 remains closed indefinitely between the southern exit of the Willits Bypass and Uva Drive.
The Red Cross is assisting at the county’s evacuation centers, located at Willits High and Ukiah High. Evacuees are also welcome at the events center at the Coyote Valley Casino. One Red Cross worker at the Willits Library said dinner was being cooked for the evacuees currently at WHS, thanks to generous donations from Fortunate Farms and other donators. She urged those seeking to help to give monetary donations for now instead of dropping off food or supplies.
In Willits, skies are filling with smoke and crowds of people are gathered outside the Willits Library hoping to get an internet connection. Service is still spotty but we will update as soon as possible, which may be a while.
WILLITS, 10/9/17, 12:45pm — The fires in Potter Valley and Redwood Valley have merged into one 10,000 acre fire, now called the Redwood Complex, which is 0% contained, CalFire is reporting — and a state of emergency has been declared by Sheriff Tom Allman. The sheriff’s office is now reporting one fatality and numerous injuries, and while the official number of structures burned is now 80 confirmed, but could rise. Roughly 400 firefighters are fighting the fire, and large sections of the county are evacuated.
You can read our article and updates from the start of the fire here, with details on the evacuations. As of 12:45pm, additional evacuations are underway in Potter Valley at Gibson Lane and Powerhouse Road, and people are asked not to return to their properties until evacuations are lifted. A CalFire spokesman said evacuations are the agency’s main priority. Additional details can be found below.
Here’s a video from Highway 101 south of Willits.
The fire has affected communications across the county, with large sections of the north county (where The Mendocino Voice is based) losing internet and cellphone service — there are reports that landlines are down there as well. Willits, Laytonville, Brooktrails, and possibly Fort Bragg, seem to have lost service all communications, which may also be out all along the West Coast, Kym Kemp is reporting. As a result information remains sketchy. The magnitude of the fires, and the amount of smoke they have created has also made it difficult for aircraft to even assess their size. At around 6am there were two large fires burning, a 4500 acre fire in Redwood Valley, and a 1500 acres on the west side of Potter Valley — they have now merged into a massive 10,000 acre Redwood Complex. The Redwood Valley portion has swept through in a rough crescent from Pine Mountain, in the northeast, through Redwood Valley and over the ridge to the Ridgewood Grade, where it appears to have jumped Hwy. 101 and is burning towards the Golden Rule Mobile Home Park. The Potter Valley portion has burned a huge part of the western hillside of that valley.
The sheriff’s press release states that, “As of 10-09-2017 at 10:00 AM there have been multiple structures destroyed with a reported fatality and numerous injuries as a result of the fire.”
Adding, “The Sheriff’s Office is also conducting theft prevention patrols and have arrested one person who was in the process of burglarizing an evacuated home.
In response to the destruction caused thus far as a result of the Redwood Fire, Mendocino County Sheriff Thomas D. Allman has declared a State of Emergency in Mendocino County.”
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office is asking people not to call CalFire or MSCO unless in case of emergency. Fire information lines have been set up to provide information, the numbers to call are: (707) 467-6428, (707) 467-2518, and (707) 467-6446. Highway 101 is closed south of Willits at the south end of the Willits Bypass to Uva Drive, with no estimated time of re-opening. Highway 101 is also closed at points south in Sonoma.
The CalFire incident page for the Potter Valley fire can be found here; the incident page for the Redwood Complex in Redwood Valley can be found here. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office is providing updates on their Facebook page, and the CalFire Mendocino Unit is providing updates on their Twitter account. PG&E updates can be found here. You can also sign up for the county’s emergency alert system here. You can watch this morning’s update on the fires across the region from CalFire here.
The evacuation center in Willits is now at Willits High, relocated from the Willits Community Center. Large animals can be taken to the Willits High farm and the rodeo grounds. In Ukiah, evacuees can go to Ukiah High, and large animals can be taken to the Ukiah Fairgrounds. You can call the Ukiah shelter at (707) 367-7743 to see if space is available. There is a small animal shelter in Ukiah at the Ukiah Animal Shelter and also at Plant Road, call (707) 671-4128. Coyote Valley Casino is also opening its event center to the evacuees of the fire. MCSO requests that people do not return to check on their properties until the evacuations are lifted.
Schools in Willits, Ukiah Unified and Saint Mary’s, Calpella, Potter Valley, and Redwood Valley are closed for the day. The Mendocino Community College campuses are closed in Willits, Ukiah, Lakeport, and Fort Bragg, and the Santa Rosa Community Junior College is also closed today.
City Councilwoman Saprina Rodriguez, who had been at the center since 2am, said about 150 evacuees were sent over to WHS, and she believed about 300 evacuees were in Willits as of around 9am, between the high school and the Safeway and Evergreen shopping center parking lots.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office has issued a press release on the fires. In it they say that a sheriff’s sergeant witness strong gusts of wind knock down powerlines and trees in Potter Valley. A fire ensued and spread quickly across the west portion of Potter Valley with the strong winds feeding it, which then appears to have started the fire in Redwood Valley. An eyewitness in Potter Valley described provided this account,
“…we watch the fire just continue to engulf an entire Hillside and eat homes up like they were paper and kindling in the fireplace at one point the flames we’re so big and burning so hot from the wind they were turning purple…the creosote railroad ties that the guard rails are attached to we’re totally on fire all the surrounding land and trees a blaze and the flames and Embers were spiraling like a tornado the fire was actually breathing it would suck air in its spiral and expand and then is it exhaled it would just hold steady for a second and then it would Breathe Again Begin spiraling. it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life and we were directly right inside of it.”
Brickhouse Coffee in Willits opened at 5am to serve coffee to evacuees and emergency responders, and staff said long lines had continued all morning.
Fires are also burning in Lake County, Sonoma County, and Napa County, and people are asked not to travel south of Mendocino County on Highway 101 if at all possible, since the road is closed in multiple places. The 101 is closed southbound at Airport Rd. in Santa Rosa, and the fire down there has grown to 20,000 acres.
Here’s a statement from Congressman Jared Huffman on Facebook.
Here is the press release from the MCSO:
DATE: “October 9, 2017”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Declared State of Emergency – Redwood Fire
Redwood Valley, California
Date of Incident:
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten
On 10-09-2017 at 1:10 AM a Sergeant from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office was on routine patrol in the area of Hawn Creek Road in Potter Valley, California.
During this time there was severe wind gusts which downed trees and power lines in this area of the valley. Shortly thereafter the Sergeant witnessed a ground fire which quickly traveled to the west towards Redwood Valley.
The fire quickly invaded Redwood Valley resulting in the mandatory evacuations of residents.
As of 10-09-2017 at 10:00 AM there have been multiple structures destroyed with a reported fatality and numerous injuries as a result of the fire.
The Sheriff’s Office is continuing to assist with mandatory evacuations and responding to assist residents who are unable to self evacuate.
The Sheriff’s Office is also conducting theft prevention patrols and have arrested one person who was in the process of burglarizing an evacuated home.
In response to the destruction caused thus far as a result of the Redwood Fire, Mendocino County Sheriff Thomas D. Allman has declared a State of Emergency in Mendocino County.
Further press releases are forth coming as the Redwood Fire progresses.
The County Emergency Operation Center (EOC) has been activated. The EOC number is (707) 467-6428.
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten