Bay Briefing: Glass Fire forces 68,000 people from their homes

Good morning, Bay Area. It’s Tuesday, Sept. 29, and yes, there is actually a presidential debate this evening. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

A familiar pattern

A chaotic wildfire that has already burned dozens of homes, destroyed wineries and forced about 68,000 people to evacuate continued to burn across Wine Country overnight.

Three wildfires that broke out on the east and west sides of St. Helena on Sunday spread quickly through extremely dry grasslands and merged into the Glass Fire by Monday morning. The fire has charred more than 36,000 acres and was not contained at all as of Monday afternoon. The city of Calistoga is now under a mandatory evacuation order and Santa Rosa City Schools have canceled all online classes through Wednesday.

Read more here and follow the live updates here.


• Here’s what we know about the Bay Area’s latest wildfire. In Northern California: New evacuations from North Complex fires, three dead in Zogg Fire in Shasta County

• Bay Area’s wildfire weather outlook mixed: Calmer winds but more heat, dry conditions.

A firefighter watches as two houses burn on Mountain Hawk Drive  in the Skyhawk area of Santa Rosa.

• Air quality just northwest of the city of Sonoma was very unhealthy early Tuesday — see latest air quality across the Bay Area here.

• Why already scorched areas can remain vulnerable to new fires.

Fifth & Mission podcast: Reporter Matthias Gafni talks about an uncomfortably close call late Sunday night as he followed a city bus through flames of the fast-moving Shady Fire as the bus evacuated residents of the Oakmont Gardens Senior Home in Santa Rosa.

How do you replace the history?

Jesus Calderon uses a hand rake to stop small spot fires that are creeping into the vineyard  at Schramsberg Winery in Calistoga.

It’s a nightmare scenario for a year that was already a very bad dream for the Napa Valley wine industry.

The Glass Fire plowed through structures at several winery properties — including Tofanelli Family Vineyard’s 120-year-old barn, the stone winery of high-end estate Chateau Boswell and the multipurpose farmhouse at Castello di Amorosa.

At least 143 Napa County wineries were within evacuation zones, according to the county’s Office of Emergency Services; most owners are still waiting to see how their vineyards fared.

Napa weathered another large fire in August and has been dealing with the repercussions of lingering wildfire smoke, which can ruin wine grapes. A number of vintners in Napa and Sonoma counties have even said that they won’t make any wine in 2020 due to smoke damage. Now they face losing more than a single year’s harvest.

• Empty Bay Area hotels fill up as people flee Glass Fire in Wine Country.

• Photos from inside the Glass Fire.

• What you need to know about insurance for your losses.

A way into Cal?

University of California Regent Richard Blum, the husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, wrote UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ in support of admitting the relative of a family friend, and suggested to her that the applicant might donate money to the campus after graduating, new records reveal.

The emails, released by California’s independent state auditor as part of a Chronicle request for public records, also reveal a cozy relationship between the admissions office and the UC Berkeley Foundation responsible for raising money.

Blum’s email suggests not only that he violated UC policy but that UC Berkeley also broke the rules simply by accepting the recommendation, Nanette Asimov reports.

Around the Bay

Post-season bubble: In something of a surprise, the A’s are going with a rookie, and a left-hander at that, in Game 1 of the wild-card series against the White Sox. Ann Killon: A’s in 2020 have dealt with the coronavirus, bad air and MLB’s disrespect. Newsletter: Sign up for the A’s Plus newsletter as the Athletics start the postseason.

Who is this debate for? John Wildermuth reports what to expect from a “regular” presidential debate in a most irregular year. More: Kamala Harris puts health care at center of Supreme Court fight over Amy Coney Barrett.

Worrisome California coronavirus sign: Reproduction rate — the average number of people to whom each infected person spreads the coronavirus — is creeping up. Podcast: Fifth & Mission looks at coronavirus inequality in the Mission District.

The Man with the Plan: Bob Passmore, S.F. planner instrumental in rezoning downtown, dies at 86.

Pizzas are staying: Vibrant Oakland restaurant Sister brings on a former ‘Top Chef’ contestant.

Extravagant and safe: Meet the S.F. designer creating Lady Gaga’s favorite face coverings.

From columnist Heather Knight: Bid to fix partying on S.F.’s Twin Peaks just moves the problem around, angering neighbors.

In the Studio

Pitmaster and chef Matt Horn sits on a meat smoker he calls Lucille at his home in Tracy.

On the latest episode of “Extra Spicy,” Matt Horn, the pitmaster and proprietor behind Horn BBQ, talks about his journey from cooking in a backyard in Tracy and putting on a roaming Bay Area pop-up to opening a highly anticipated brick-and-mortar space in Oakland.

Horn’s Texas-style barbecue has become the stuff of legend, earning him regional and national acclaim, as well as a spot on this year’s Top 88, The Chronicle’s list of top Bay Area restaurants.

Hosts Soleil Ho and Justin Phillips break down why Matt Horn’s barbecue — from his tender smoked brisket to his extraordinary attention to detail — has always been worth the wait.

More podcasts from The Chronicle:

Fifth & Mission: The Bay Area’s coronavirus long-haulers.

It’s All Political: Rep. Adam Schiff — what a post-Trump world could look like.

Bay Briefing is edited by Taylor Kate Brown and sent to readers’ email inboxes on weekday mornings. Sign up for the newsletter here, and contact Brown at [email protected]

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