California Wine Country Ravaged by Fires That Have Forced Evacuations of 25,000 People (Video)
More than 15 different fires continue to burn in California’s wine country, killing at least 15 people, destroying thousands of buildings, and brutalizing the region’s vineyards.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that they have nine confirmed deaths and have received 200 reports of missing people. They have so far located 45 of those missing.
Two people were reported dead in Napa County, three in Mendocino County, and one in Yuba County as of Tuesday afternoon.
More than 25,000 people from the area were forced to evacuate, according to the state fire agency Cal Fire, and 5,000 are in shelters.
Many areas were without power and phone reception, and many businesses are closed.
The Napa County Sherrif’s Department posted on its Facebook page that “cell service in the area is still poor due to tower damage.”
“Cell service providers are working on their infrastructure to improve service,” the post said. “Please register yourself on www.safeandwell.org so that family from out of the area can know your safe. Fire conditions are still dangerous so please respect road closures.”
Visit Napa Valley, one of the area’s tourism bureaus, posted a list of hotels and businesses that are open and closed.
According to the list, at least 22 wineries and tasting rooms are closed, along with many hotels and restaurants. But a few places, including Mark Herold Wines Reserve Room, PureCru, Wines on First, RiverHouse by Bespoke Collection, The Wine Foundry and Trinitas Cellars remained open, as did hotels such as the Napa River Inn, Westin Versa Napa, Inn on Randolph and Harvest Inn.
“Napa County is currently reporting multiple fires and mandatory evacuations. Our thoughts are with our residents, business owners and visitors in the Napa Valley and surrounding area,” Visit Napa Valley posted on its website. “Due to road passage difficulty and poor air quality, please consider making alternate travel plans until the fires in Napa Valley have been contained. We invite you to confirm your reservations directly and stay tuned to local reports for updates on fire, traffic and road conditions.”
The fires will also likely have long term impacts on the region’s wine production.
Sonoma County Winegrowers posted on its Facebook page that “it has been a devastating fire.”
“At this time, we are still assessing the specific damage to Sonoma County vineyards as well as to our communities and neighbors. Reports of fire damage to wineries, businesses and homes continues to grow,” the post reads. “While 90 percent of the winegrapes have been harvested, there were still grapes in the vineyards that were scheduled to be picked in the next ten days. At this time we have no information on specific crop damage. Our top priority right now is the health and safety of our first responders, families, employees, volunteers and everyone impacted by these wildfires. We are continuing to closely monitor the situation, but we are very proud of how our community is already coming together to support each other in this time of crisis.”
Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday that President Trump approved a major disaster declaration for the state of California to assist in the response to wildfires that are impacting across the state.
“This declaration will allow FEMA to identify, mobilize, and provide additional equipment and resources to assist with the emergencies,” he said. “This includes debris removal, emergency protective measures, search-and-rescue operations.”
Doug Hill owns Hill Family Estate, which consists of a dozzen vineyards from Yountville south, including ones on Atlas Peak and Wooden Valley. He said he has not been able to assess the damage yet because roads are closed and he cannot reach his fields.
He said several areas were without power and cell service, so he relocated to his office where he could be in contact with people and monitor the fires.
Hill was not sure what was open and what wasn’t, but said many stop lights in town were out.
“There were no police out to direct people, but people were behaving really well and taking turns at intersections,” he said. “It’s good to see that the fires have brought out the best in people.”
He said when the fires began, he looked out from his property and saw multiple fires in different places in the surrounding hills.
“It was like Armageddon,” he said.
Napa Valley Fire Map
This map shows where active fires are across California state.