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Country Fires Worsen, Sending More Residents Fleeing

Time:2017-10-12 21:34wine - Red wine life health Click:

country More Fires RESIDENTS Worsen

UPDATED Oct. 12, 5 a.m. PST Last night, new mandatory evacuations were ordered for parts of eastern Sonoma Valley and again in parts of Santa Rosa, where some residents who left Oct. 8 and 9 had been able to return home, along with evacuation advisories for eastern neighborhoods in the city of Napa.

Residents of Northern California wine country were wondering if they would lose everything Wednesday as several large wildfires continued to spread throughout Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, advancing on more towns, including Calistoga and Geyserville, which are under mandatory evacuation orders, and getting closer to the outskirts of the city of Napa, in the south of the appellation.

The death toll from the fires that started Oct. 8 and 9 has risen to 23, and more than 170,000 acres, up from 124,000 on Tuesday, had burned throughout the state since Sunday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (Cal Fire).

The biggest was the Atlas fire in the eastern hills of Napa County, which had topped 42,000 acres Wednesday morning and was listed as only 3 percent contained. Parts were spreading into neighboring Solano County, home to the Suisun Valley and Green Valley American Viticultural Areas. Sonoma had multiple blazes, while Mendocino’s Redwood fire had grown to 30,000 acres.

Though a Tuesday respite from high winds that fanned the flames allowed firefighters to make progress, "we're not out of the woods yet," said Ken Pimlott, director of CalFire, in a midday Office of Emergency Services news conference in Sacramento attended by other state and federal emergency officials and California Gov. Jerry Brown. "And we're not going to be out of the woods for a great number of days to come."

“We are at very low containment on most of these,” said Pimlott. “These fires are literally burning faster than firefighters can run.”

Of the confirmed deaths, 13 occurred in Sonoma, six in Mendocino, two in Napa and two in Yuba County. Hundreds of people were missing, and 4,400 reported to be in evacuation shelters, according to the Office of Emergency Services.

A total of 3,500 homes and businesses were reported destroyed or damaged in the three northern counties. At least seven wineries have been significantly or totally damaged—five in Napa, including Signorello Estate and White Rock Vineyards; Sonoma's Paradise Ridge Vineyards and Mendocino's Frey Vineyards. Another 11 in Napa, including Stags' Leap Winery, have reported to the Napa Valley Vintners that they have some damage to the winery, other building or vineyards; Sonoma and Mendocino are still tallying damage reports.

The latest winery casualty to be confirmed in the Atlas fire is the small Patland Vineyards, founded by Henry and Olga Patland beginning with the 2007 vintage. They specialized in red wines made from their estate vineyard and nearby Stagecoach Vineyard.

Winemaker Jay Buoncristiani confirmed the news. "The Patlands’ estate, perched at 1,500 feet above Soda Canyon Road, was wiped out by the fierce Atlas fire early on Sunday night," Buoncristiani told Wine Spectator. "I feel so badly for their loss. They are like family to me, but they are handling it amazingly well, and feel like I do: As long as lives are safe, the rest is replaceable, and things could have been far worse. In fact, Michael Patland saved his neighbor’s life by waking him up and getting him out of his home, which was toasted within a short time after escaping."

As far as the Stagecoach Vineyard, no one can get close to assess the damage. Buoncristiani also can't get access to the Caves at Soda Canyon, where his wines are fermenting. "We have a lot in barrel already, but I also currently have at least seven fermentations that are running wild in the Caves, and I am so eager to get in there and check on their status and I’m prepared for the challenge to bring them home to dryness safely."

For more updates on how the region’s wineries are faring, visit "California Fires: Damage Updates from Wineries."

Resources are now flooding into the region from throughout California and neighboring states to battle the blazes, Pimlott says. Eight thousand firefighters are now on the lines, along with 550 fire engines and 73 helicopters and 30 air tankers dropping fire retardant. An additional 170 fire engines from out of state are on their way to the region

Country Fires Worsen, Sending More Residents Fleeing

Polaris Images

One of thousands of firefighters in the area watches smoke rise from the Tubbs fire.

That’s a marked improvement in tactical support from Tuesday, when billowing smoke clouds limited the ability of aircraft to fly safely. “Today is a very different picture," said Pimlott, who noted that aircraft were up and flying this morning in "an aggressive aerial assault.” In addition, 700 soldiers of the California National Guard are helping battle the fires.

On the ground, shifting winds and the spreading scope of the fires were the major concern. The 28,000-acre Tubbs fire, which had started near the northern Napa Valley town of Calistoga and quickly spread to the city of Santa Rosa to destroy entire neighborhoods, is now burning on the slopes of Mt. St. Helena. Calistoga, which lies at the base of the mountain, was under evacuation as a result.

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