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Kincade Fire Seen From San Francisco As It Flares Up Amid Howling Winds

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) -- Though fire crews battled the massive Kincade Fire in Northern California's Wine Country and were able to keep it 15 percent contained most of Tuesday, the blaze began flaring up in the evening amid Red Flag Warning wind gusts.

Shortly before 10 p.m., winds were so rapidly moving and for a brief moment, the flames of the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County could be seen from San Francisco.

KPIX 5's Sutro Tower camera spotted the fire, which is about 85 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Cal Fire crews and air support took advantage of calmer conditions during the day as officials confirmed Tuesday evening during an update that the Kincade Fire had only grown slightly to 76,138 acres.

As of the most recent Cal Fire tally, 186 structures have been destroyed by the fire including 86 homes.

The Kincade Fire has reached the edge of the Tubbs Fire burn scar that was created during the Wine Country wildfires two years ago.

While the weather up until Tuesday afternoon helped fire crews hold containment lines, the forecast into Tuesday evening was more ominous.

National Weather Service forecaster Ryan Walburn warned that the winds were forecast to increase significantly overnight.

"The Red Flag conditions do continue right now through the overnight hours until about four o'clock Wednesday afternoon," he said. "Right now we are seeing wind gusts of around 50 miles an hour up near Mount St. Helena. Those are impacting the fire as we've heard."

The winds, combined with low humidity and dry conditions, would continue to make the fight to contain the Kincade Fire difficult.

"In the center of the fire, we're still gusting to about 35 miles an hour and the humidity values are observed at six percent," said Walburn. "We're all feeling good, but the conditions remain incredibly dry and windy."

"With the northeast winds that we are currently still feeling up there on the mountains, everybody's still anticipating those high rates of spread and the erratic fire behavior," said Cal Fire's Steve Volmer.

Luckily by around midnight, the winds were forecast to calm considerably, though the Red Flag warning would still likely remain in effect until Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters told KPIX they feel confident if they can get the fire to hold through the winds expected through Wednesday afternoon, they can take advantage of the better weather next week and make some real progress on the fire.

The increasing afternoon winds raised the danger of the Kincade Fire heading back towards Highway 128 and U.S. Highway 101.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, a spot fire just outside Windsor reignited in an area firefighters thought they had knocked down. The hot spot led to the fire burning the Leap Now Transformation Learning Center. Tucked away on its own, the center was spared over the weekend, but not on Tuesday.

"Obviously, we can't catch them all. It's really hard to see. Any time the wind kicks back up that creates an opportunity for new spot fires to show themselves," said Cal Fire spokesperson Rhett Pratt.

Fire crews from Oregon arrived Tuesday to battle the blaze--about 225 firefighters with nearly a hundred vehicles.

"We come help California and we've needed California to help us in the past," Oregon Battalion Chief Cross said.

"The idea is that we come down, work our butts off for the community of Santa Rosa, and then we go home," said Cross.

Just down the road in Santa Rosa, evacuees wait hopefully for the all clear to go home.

"Frustrating. You know, we were homeless for a while and we just got this house," said one resident. "We're not even unpacked yet, and then we had to leave. So here we are."

Cal Fire crews are hoping to keep the fire away from the area of Windsor that firefighters managed to save during the weekend's ferocious battle.

"Well, our concern is the fire moving farther southwest into the Windsor area into other residential areas that are filled with homes," said Pratt. "We want to keep it out of homes."

The fight to keep the massive Kincade Fire from expanding down Highway 128 and further south into Calistoga was being fought in a thicket of trees and underbrush along winding, single track Ida Clayton Road.

With winds already kicking up along Highway 128, Cal Fire, US Forest Service and city crews from as far away as Compton were in position, ready to fight back against catastrophe Tuesday night.

Back in Calistoga, Ron Maxwell, who's been without power since last Wednesday was finally leaving and heading to a friend's home in Santa Rosa.

"What I remember was two years ago, you know, that wind was howling. I went outside and I could see the ridge glowing. So, that's was pretty scary. This is not really as threatening," Maxwell told KPIX 5.

The Kincaid Fire took out structures at Oak Ridge Angus on Highway 128. The cattle appeared to be unharmed, but were standing next to burning rubble. At Peter Michael Winery, a stand was made and firefighters stopped the flames from jumping Ida Clayton Road into the winery.

Earlier Tuesday, fire officials expressed concerns by the Kincade Fire's movement into Lake County. A new evacuation warning was issued for parts of the county, including the Twin Pines Casino and Middletown, which was ravaged during a 2015 wildfire.

Elsewhere, nearly 156,000 people remained under evacuation orders in Sonoma County including the entire towns of Geyserville, Windsor and Healdsburg. Thousands filled evacuations centers from Petaluma to San Francisco.

As the fire entered into its seventh day, fatigue was setting in among the 4,000 firefighters battling the blaze. So far, two firefighters have suffered injuries battling the blaze, one hospitalized in stable conditions with serious burns at the UC Davis Burn Center.

"Coming up into a week into this incident, I know many of you have driven a long way to get here or worked doubled shifts," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Joe Buchmeier at the morning briefing. "Now is when fatigue really starts to set in. Minor errors become major accidents...Slow down your driving... Always have a secondary plan and an emergency plan. Always have an escape route."

Conditions had improved enough on the western edge of the fire Monday to allow the Sonoma County Sheriff to downgrade a mandatory evacuation order for residents of Guerneville, Jenner, Sebastopol and their surrounding areas to a mere warning.

The residents could return to their homes unimpeded by law enforcement officers patrolling the area.

"This means that you can return home now at your own risk," the sheriff's department said in a news release. "This area is still at risk from the Kincade Fire, and much of this area does not have power or natural gas due to the power shutoff. Remember, if you hear the hi-lo sirens, it's time to evacuate."

Tuesday afternoon, the evacuation order for the northern part of Dry Creek Valley was also downgraded to an evacuation warning. The Sonoma County Sheriff's office noted that the area is still at risk from the Kincade Fire, and much of this area does not have power or natural gas due to the power shutoff.

"There will still be more peace officers in your neighborhood," authorities said. " You do not need to check in with anyone and you do not need a peace officer escort."

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