ST. HELENA (CBS SF) — Across Wine Country a sense of normality was beginning to take grip early Saturday as major roadways closed by the threat of the Glass Fire were reopened, neighborhoods in St. Helena, Calistoga and Angwin repopulated, less smoke was visible on the horizon and utility crews were busy restoring electrical power to once evacuated homes.
As of Saturday morning, the Glass Fire burn zone had grown to 67,484 acres with 82 percent containment, but a once promising weather front and the showers it would produce, never arrived.
“Crews experienced minimal fire behavior throughout the night on the Glass Fire,” Cal Fire said in a Saturday morning update. “These conditions consisted of creeping and smoldering fire behavior within the current perimeter.”
There were a few mandatory evacuations still in place, but the majority had been either completely lifted or reduced to warnings that allowed residents to return to their homes.
But for more than 640 families, their return home was not celebratory. Cal Fire damaged assessment teams reported as of Saturday morning, at least 642 homes had been destroyed in Sonoma and Napa counties. Another 157 homes had received some kind of damage.
Among those who lost their home was Mike Christianson and his wife, Mluz Torres. They had watched in horror as the flames engulfed their Napa County home while they were evacuating during the fire’s early hours.
“It was within five minutes, the entire side of the hill was on fire. All trees, all burning, all roaring like a jet,” he said. “And at that moment, we realized that it was time to go. So we grabbed a few things, jumped in the car.”
Others were relieved to find their homes still standing.
“You know, I thought it was going to be a lot more damage inside the city of Calistoga, the little Downtown but, it was all in the hills, the wineries and the houses up in the hills. I guess we’re lucky to be safe down here.” said Jonny Munoz.
Cal Fire was still trying to determine the source of the fires that were combined into the Glass Fire complex. The Glass Fire erupted first near St. Helena and hours later the Shady and Boysen fires erupted west of St. Helena during red flag fire conditions.
Meanwhile, more than 1,400 power poles were being replaced by a small army of PG&E crews. Their work couldn’t be completed quick enough for many local residents.
Jim Shaffer lives in nearby Deer Park, which was heavily devastated by fire with dozens of homes destroyed. Shaffer’s home survived, but life was only slowly returning to normal Saturday and currently powered by a generator.
“Look, my house is still standing,” he told KPIX 5. “What am I worried about being out of power for a while? What about the people who lost their places, you know? So yeah, you have to think about you have, that you’re fortunate … and not what you don’t have.”
PG&E is expecting it will take one to two more weeks to fully restore power to affected areas.