Fires Strike California Wine Country


Late Sunday October 1, multiple fires began in the counties of Napa, Sonoma, and Lake. Whipped by high winds, the fires threatened and destroyed homes, lives, and wineries.

These fires continue tonight with over 1000 firefighters working to keep people and animals safe in the towns of Sonoma and Napa. In fact a reliable source reports that as of Thursday, there are 73 helicopters, over 30 air tankers, some 500 fire vehicles, over 8000 fire personnel, with another 150 fire vehicles requested from neighboring states plus CHP, National Guard, police, utility workers and more in the region at work.

Thousands more firefighters are working around the clock across a state which has plenty of fuel following last year’s generous rains.

The flammable grasses and shrubs combined with hot dry winds will make for a dangerous situation until winter storms hit –which may be in a month or two.

During the past week, I have followed the stories and photos as friends in the region have told harrowing tales of evacuation, near escape, fire, damage, and repeated evacuations as they make sure children and pets are safe as well as keep tabs on elderly and infirm neighbors. The losses are devastating: many lives and pets as well as cherished possessions.

fire on a hillside above harvest Oct. 2017; photo  by George Rose author of “VINEYARD Sonoma County”

However, contrary to some reports, the 2017 vintage will be fine: most of the grapes were harvested, which means that in general the wine is unlikely to be marred by smoke taint, and extensive efforts to maintain temperatures and other necessary winery activities are happening in much of the region. Read a extensive report from UC Davis here.

Unfortunately, as of Friday according to the San Jose Mercury News, over two dozen wineries suffered damages from minor to complete:

  • MENDOCINO four wineries were damaged or destroyed in Mendocino County including Frey Vineyards, the country’s first organic and biodynamic winery which lost both winery and bottling facility but the wine-storage warehouse still stands
  • SONOMA six wineries in Sonoma County were damaged or destroyed including Paradise Ridge Winery which was completely destroyed on Monday by the Tubbs Fire, however, the vineyards remain intact
  • NAPA Napa County wineries sustained the most damage: 16 wineries lost landscaping, buildings or had other damage including complete losses by the organic Helena View Johnston Vineyards, Segassia Vineyard, and VinRoc which lost everything except their cave.
  • Many tasting rooms and winery facilities have been evacuated or are closed as are many roads. DO NOT go to the area. Authorities have requested people stay off of I-5 and I-80 to allow equipment to move to where it is needed.

For a first hand report with more details about the fires, read Michelle Williams article here.

See more of George Rose’s photos on Facebook here.

Another friend who lives and works in wine country attended a meeting Wednesday night in the city of Napa. Here’s an abbreviated list of what she learned that might be relevant to people in the area and beyond:

CASH DONATIONS: send to the Napa Valley Community Foundation.

• Donations of gift or cash cards are needed ($20-$25 amounts each) to Target, Walmart, Home Depot: Center for Volunteer Leadership will gather, or the Salvation Army in Napa They should focus on places where people can go to buy their own household items or toiletry needs, etc. There are currently about 800 people in Napa’s two evacuation centers. This number could grow or change.

• No other in-kind donations are needed at this time.

MASKS NEEDED: Those who can taste, see, feel smoke should wear a “particulate respirator” that has the word “NIOSH” and either “N95” or “P100” printed on it. These are sold at many hardware, paint, auto repair, home repair stores and pharmacies. They are currently a challenge to find in Napa and the greater Bay Area.

My husband works at HUB in Ventura CA (1397 Walter) and they carry them. He explained because regulations are changing, compliant masks are in great demand across CA.

Calhoun Communications in San Francisco will deliver directly up Valley. Right now they have plenty so you might check before sending masks to:
Calhoun Communications
Attention Kela Diggs
3275 Sacramento St, San Francisco CA 94115

People wheezing, coughing, nauseous, or weak should seek medical attention at the Queen or Kaiser and consider leaving the area.

EVACUATION Everyone should prepare for possible evacuation. Keep a half a tank of gas or more in vehicles, make sure you have all valuable paperwork, at least a week’s worth of medications and a bag packed. Once you are evacuated, you cannot go back to your place of residence until notified.

PETS Remember to have on hand pet food and carriers — Pets need to eat too!

WATER The only area in Napa with a boil water notice is in NE Napa near Silverado Resort.

Please do not be a looky loo! Public safety is important. Do not drive into areas that are being evacuated. Obey signs for street closures,etc.

Expect firefighting efforts to continue at a minimum for the next two to three weeks.

Fundraising activities include:

  • In an email, Peet’s Coffee says they will match donations up to $10k until Oct. 22; they are also supplying food and coffee.
  • In an email, Peju Winery writes that while “currently safe from the fires, many of our vintner and local friends were not as lucky, and our hearts go out to all of those affected by these devastating fires. In an effort to help our community rebuild, Peju will be donating 20% of all online sales through the month of October to fire relief efforts for community members and vintners who have lost homes and businesses.”
  • Gallo will donate $1 million to relief efforts, and, in addition, will match employee contributions 2 to 1. 
  • In an email, Castello di Amorosa and V. Sattui Winery say they are making a joint contribution of $100,000 to the Napa Valley Community Foundation (NVCF) Disaster Relief Fund which will be distributing grants from this fund to organizations providing crucial services for those impacted by the fires including, but not limited to: medical care, temporary shelter, meals and counseling. If interested in helping to rebuild, donate here: Due to the current conditions in Calistoga, the tasting room will be closed until further notice. Given the castle’s proximity to the mandatory evacuation areas, employees are not able to return to work, and phone systems are not operational.  Email instead at
  • Here’s what is up to. UPDATE 10/31/17 over 700k has been raised!


  • The Redwood Credit Union has opened a fund for fire relief. Donate here.
  • Napa County Community Foundation has started a fund for fire relief. Details here.
  • The Community Foundation of Mendocino County has started a disaster fund. Info here.
  • The Sonoma Humane Society has an Amazon wish list where you can help purchase supplies for them to care for animals separated from their owners. Buy stuff here.

If you would like more ways to help, you can visit the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund website.

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