A rapidly growing wildfire in Sonoma County, California, has forced the evacuation of a geothermal power producing plant.
Residents of 36 homes near Cloverdale were ordered to evacuate as the flames grew Sunday afternoon, officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. A Red Cross evacuation center was providing water, food and shelter at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Healdsburg.
In addition, the Aidlin Geothermal Power Plant, one of 14 Calpine plants at The Geysers, was evacuated as well, officials said.
“Our remaining plants at The Geysers continue to operate normally, and our team is constantly assessing the situation and will take all steps necessary to ensure the safety of employees and the preservation of our facilities,” said spokesman Brett Kerr. “We can also confirm that all of our employees are safe and accounted for.”
While only homes outside of Cloverdale were evacuated, those in town said they were watching the situation closely.
Mike Stok, 51, lives in San Francisco but spends his weekends with his wife at their home in Cloverdale. He said he first noticed smoke from the fire Sunday morning, smoldering over a ridge to the east of town. By the afternoon, what first looked like hazy smog had become a thick, dark plume of smoke. Stok and his wife said they were not notified about any possible evacuations from their home in the center of town Sunday.
As he watched Cal Fire air tankers make passes over the burn area from his front porch, he hoped the flames stayed on the other side of the nearby ridge.
“It’s pretty scary. On warm and windy days like this, you see a fire and you hope the forces keep it from spreading, but the conditions are robust,” he said. “Life is going on as normal in the middle of town, but it’s pretty obvious there’s a fire burning nearby.”
The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning and a heat advisory for the area for Sunday and Monday. Gusty winds and low relative humidity made for “critical fire weather conditions,” forecasters with the weather service said in the alert.
The fire is burning just west of a region of Lake County that’s been devastated by wildfires over the past two years.
This year’s Clayton Fire eviscerated the small town of Lower Lake about 30 miles northeast of the Sawmill Fire. The Valley Fire of 2015, which started about 10 miles east of The Geysers, destroyed much of Middletown on its way to becoming the third-most-destructive wildfire in state history.
Jean G. Thomas