Point Reyes wildfire burns 2,259 acres, evacuation warnings expanded

Firefighters pushing through thick coastal brush and dead trees left in the scar of the 1995 Vision fire struggled to gain ground Friday on a wildfire that has burned 2,259 acres in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
The Woodward fire was 5% contained at end of the third day of the firefight. It continued to torch a forest dotted with bishop pine trees and stretched almost as far west as the Pacific Ocean.

Fire officials issued new evacuation warnings Friday afternoon for Olema, Inverness, Inverness Park and Sea Haven as the wind picked up and blew northeast, threatening to carry the fire from the remote seashore into populated West Marin neighborhoods.
The southern edge of the fire also continued to snake its way toward Bolinas. An evacuation warning has remained in effect since Tuesday for the 11.5-mile area west of Highway 1 between Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Olema south to Bolinas.
“We need you ready,” Marin County fire Chief Jason Weber said in a Thursday morning briefing.

Time lapse of the #woodwardfire burning in Pt. Reyes today from the Mt. Vision camera
— Matthew Pera (@MatthewRPera) August 21, 2020

The warnings are designed to give residents time to prepare for the possibility of an evacuation order, Weber said.
Officials have closed the Point Reyes National Seashore and are urging visitors to steer clear of the coast to keep roads open for firefighters.
There are no roads inside the fire’s footprint, and the craggy, rugged terrain is making it tough for firefighters to access the blaze. The forest floor is littered with Douglas fir and knobcone pine trees that burned and fell during the Vision fire, which burned 12,354 acres and destroyed 45 homes in 1995.
“That’s really what’s hurting us right now,” said National Park Incident Commander Bernard Spielman. “Those dead trees create huge hazards for us firefighters on the ground.”

Deputies on the #woodwardfire caught the scoopers dropping water on the fire.
— Marin County Sheriff (@MarinSheriff) August 21, 2020

Firefighters have been working in the park since Monday, when a lightning bolt sparked a blaze dubbed the 4-5 fire. The Woodward Fire, which was first reported Tuesday, may have started as a spot fire from that blaze, or it could have been triggered by another lightning strike, Weber said.
With wildfires raging throughout Northern and Central California, firefighters are working without much backup and equipment is limited.
“We’re all a little exhausted,” said Marin County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Brenton Schneider, who is serving as spokesman for the fire.
A long-awaited aerial attack on Thursday helped slow the growth of the fire, and more air support returned Friday afternoon.
“The fire growth would have been much larger than it is if we didn’t have that,” Weber said.
The air support came after the fire burst from 1,500 to 2,000 acres Thursday. Pilots dropped retardant around the blaze, focusing the attack on the north side of the fire to keep it from ripping down a mountainous range into a lower valley area, Weber said.
The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch for the Bay Area from Sunday morning through Tuesday. Isolated thunderstorms are anticipated as a result of remnant moisture from former Hurricane Genevieve and erratic high winds with gusts up to 60 mph could accompany them, the weather service said.
Heavy smoke continues to drift across Marin County and into San Francisco. The haze blanketing Bay Area skies has resulted in some of the world’s worst air quality and prompted the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to issue a “Spare the Air” warning through Sunday.
Marin health officials have also issued a health advisory, urging people infected with or exposed to the coronavirus to take extra precautions to limit smoke exposure.

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