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Kincade Fire: Early Knock On Door Led To Frantic Escape From Flames

GEYSERVILLE (CBS SF/AP) -- Christopher Bingham glanced outside his Northern California Wine County home early Thursday and couldn't believe his eyes -- a wall of fire was closing in on the house.

Bingham was among the 2,000 or so rural Sonoma County residents who were force to flee their homes in the pre-dawn hours as the Kincade Fire raced toward Geyserville.

As of noon there was zero containment of the blaze that had charred more than 10,000 acres and burned buildings and homes nestled along picturesque county lanes that crisscross the wine growing region.

Bingman said his family got word around midnight they may have to evacuate.

"It was 5:30 a.m. when I looked out and saw flames within 400 yards of my house," he said. "It was time to get out."

The Bingham family had spent the hours after the initial alert, getting ready to flee.

"The way fire is and so unpredictable," he said, "we had free time so we might as well spend it being constructive and making sure we were ready to go if something got crazy and it did."

That wasn't the case for long-time resident Sean Olhan, who was rousted from his bed by firefighters who raced door-to-door to alert local residents.

"It was 5:30 in the morning, Cal fire was banging on the door in their helmets with flashlights telling us to get out," he said. "The fire … was coming down various pathways and the winds were the most remarkable thing."

Among those fleeing with Olhan was his mother, who was still dressed in her bathrobe. He hiked through the vineyards back to his home when the sun came up.

"My mother is 91 and needed to get out of her bathrobe and into some jeans," he said with a smile.

Jerome Gunderson had had his power turned off by PG&E in the utiity's preemptive blackout. He wasn't aware of the blaze until he stepped outside his home.

"I had a flashlight," he said. "I was outside on the deck. I set my flashlight on the deck and it was covered with ashes. I said 'oh-oh' and went to the other side (of the house) and looked up. The hills behind us were on fire."

Mary Ceglarski-Sherwin and her husband Matt Ceglarski-Sherwin lost their rental home in Santa Rosa during a series of deadly fires two years ago.

Early Thursday, they and their two dogs were evacuating from their new Geyserville home with the 72-hour emergency kits they'd acquired during the last fire, they told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat .

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office issued orders for Geyserville's evacuation shortly before dawn as a wind-drive wildfire raged.

Mary Ceglarski-Sherwin says at 3 a.m. she told her husband "we gotta go, we gotta go; I can feel it changing."

She says they could feel the fire's heat and see its smoke when they headed for an evacuation shelter.

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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