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Kincade fire now 68% contained

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For the first time since the Kincade fire started eight days ago, it didn’t grow during the night and firefighters gained slightly on containment, now at 68 percent, according to Cal Fire early Friday.

The fire remained at 77,758 acres. Fire officials Friday said the calm weather again helped with progress during the night

“I think you’ll see that number go up steadily over the next few days,” said Sonoma County Fire Chief Mark Heine Friday.

The remaining area not encircled is mainly in difficult terrain along the fire’s northeast side.

“Most of the whole west side to the east is all real cold and looking really good,” Heine said. “There is still work to do on the east side, in the hills above Middletown… in the very rugged area through the Geysers geothermal property. It’s really hard territory for the crews to get in.”

The number of homes and other structures burned remained the same overnight, at 349 structures destroyed.

With the progress on this fire and growing needs elsewhere, some 700 firefighters were released from the Kincade Thursday into Friday to head home or help on fires burning at the southern end of the state. That leaves about 4,300 still on duty for this fire.

“We want to get them back into the mutual aid system,” Heine said.

The chief expected officials in Southern California would be seeking a strike team from Sonoma County. But the needs here remained the priority, he said.

Power was restored Thursday to all but a few of the over 300,000 North Bay customers who had their electricity cut Saturday, intended to help prevent wildfires during strong winds, according to Pacific Gas & Electric. It was the third time in the past two months the utility initiated widespread public safety power shut-offs in dozens of Northern California counties ahead of forecast high fire danger.

But natural gas service remains off at a number of North Bay locations, after PG&E cut gas to about 25,000 homes as the Kincade fire approached, according to Facebook posts by North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire. The utility has called in help from other agencies to put more than 500 personnel into the field to ignite pilot lights, but residents have to be home for the work to be completed, he wrote.

Gas service has been restored in Geyserville, Cloverdale and the Fulton area north of Santa Rosa as of Friday morning, and relighting pilots has begun in Sebastopol, Forestville and Graton in west Sonoma County, McGuire said. Work at Windsor addresses is set to start at noon Friday.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

North Bay Business Journal contributed to this report.

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