Dry, windy weather threatened to propel the Glass Fire on a destructive path through the heart of California’s famed Wine Country on Thursday, as new evacuation orders were issued and worried firefighters on the front lines did all they could to keep the huge blaze at bay.

Residents in the rest of the Bay Area were hit with a familiar lineup of bad news — a heat wave, unhealthy, smoky air and the possibility of rolling blackouts. With a heat advisory in place until 8 p.m. Friday and poor air quality expected to linger, people stuck sheltering-in-place without air conditioning once again faced a miserable choice — open the windows and breathe smoke, or close them and feel the heat. Even those with AC were asked to use it as little as possible as California’s grid operator urged residents to conserve power or risk another round of rolling blackouts.

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“It will be hard to escape some of this heat, especially for those interior locations,” said Brayden Murdock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service of the Bay Area.

In the North Bay, the heat, coupled with wind gusts and very low humidity, created extreme fire conditions that are expected to last into Saturday morning.

“The spread of the fire is almost imminent as we speak,” Cal Fire Chief Mark Brunton said during a virtual press briefing Thursday.

The Glass Fire, already the fifth largest of the 23 major fires burning in the state, has engulfed 58,880 acres in the North Bay, damaged or destroyed nearly 400 buildings, and was just 5% contained. As the flames edged closer to Calistoga, firefighters were working to keep them from sweeping down Highway 29, home to some of Napa Valley’s most famous wineries. The small Napa County community of Angwin on the east side of the fire also was at risk, as were Kenwood and Glen Ellen in Sonoma County.

“We’re doing everything we can and allocating our resources as best as we can to try to mitigate the threat,” Brunton said, “but it is something we’re extremely concerned about.”

Just before nightfall Thursday, flames were threatening St. Helena and Calistoga from the west and east. A strike force from the San Jose Fire Department was preparing to defend the AXR winery a few hundred yards west of Highway 29 between the two towns. Flames were approaching the winery down a steep, forested hillside.

“The fire up on the hill’s going to come right down to us,” said Battalion Chief Brett Maas, who added that the wildfire strike team composed entirely of the San Jose department’s firefighters was a first in the department’s history outside the city.

Predicted high winds for the afternoon weren’t as severe as expected, and the team’s 22 firefighters, with five engines, were able to save three homes and two outbuildings above the winery, Maas said.

On the eastern edge of Calistoga, fire crews were scrambling to extinguish fire that swept down a grassy, oak-dotted hillside, consuming several structures and a dump truck beside Highway 29.

By 9 p.m., the flames threatening the AXR winery were still slowly approaching, but firefighters were confident the work they had done, including wetting down surrounding areas and moving flammable materials such as outdoor furniture and awnings away from buildings, would help ensure the winery was saved.

“We have a good perimeter around it,” Maas said. “We have an engine in there.”

That branch of the fire coming downhill toward Highway 29 had also begun moving northward, burning into an elderly woman’s overgrown estate, where a home and several outbuildings sat amid plentiful fuels.

No marine layer was expected to bring moisture overnight, and with the dry conditions, the half-mile-long front of fire above the home, winery and other buildings “is going to go where it wants to go,” Maas said.

“The good thing is there’s no wind on it,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Napa Valley was covered in a thick blanket of smoke as dozens of fire engines headed up Oakville Grade Road, lights flashing and horns blaring.

Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the area, where he assured Californians he intends to expand funding for the state’s thinly-stretched firefighting force. He spoke from the badly burned Foothills Adventist Elementary School, a private school in St. Helena that had recently reopened for in-person classes.

“I’ve got four young kids in elementary school, and I can’t imagine for the parents what’s going on in their minds, with all the anxiety going into the school year, to see their precious school burned down,” Newsom said. “We have your backs.”

New evacuation orders and warnings were issued around Calistoga, as well as in the Rutherford and Oakville areas of Napa County — where a spot fire broke out Thursday morning. Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick said there was a “very real possibility” new evacuation orders could also be issued for Sonoma County in the next 24 hours. And officials worried the fire could spread to Lake County.

At the same time, there was good news for Santa Rosa. The city ravaged by the Tubbs Fire in 2017 appeared to be in the clear, thanks to strong fire lines, Brunton said.

But with dozens of major fires burning throughout California, there is little relief in sight. Air crews already have dumped 80,000 gallons of fire retardant and 3,000 gallons of water on the Glass Fire, Cal Fire Director Tom Porter said during a media briefing. In a record-shattering fire season, crews in California have cut fire control lines that could stretch from San Diego to New York City.

Addressing a problem exacerbated by climate change will take decades and require an all-encompassing approach — from more air tankers and firefighters to better land management, Porter said.

“Every acre in California can and will burn someday,” he said. “We need to embrace that and become resilient to it, by embracing the entire system approach.”

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