Wildfire forces evacuations in Napa Valley wine country

wildfire napa valley
An image showing flames at Chateau Boswell winery.

More than 4,400 hectares of land (11,000 acres) have been scorched in around 24 hours by the Glass Fire, which began near to the Deer Park area of Napa County, said state fire service Cal Fire on Monday morning (28 September).

Patients at the Adventist Health Hospital in St. Helena had to be evacuated as more than 1,000 firefighters sought to combat the fast-moving blaze.

Evacuation orders also covered the Meadowood Napa Valley luxury resort. Nearby tasting rooms, including those at Charles Krug winery and Duckhorn Vineyards, were closed to visitors on Sunday.

Duckhorn said on Twitter on Monday morning, ‘Thanks to the heroic efforts of fire crews last night, Duckhorn Vineyards is standing tall, and our staff (including our beloved winery cat Kitter) is out of harm’s way. Our hearts go out to our neighbors during this difficult time. The winery will remain closed today.’

Charles Krug also reported that its ‘team, vineyard and winery are safe. ‘We are extremely grateful that the first responders continue to work tirelessly protecting everything they can,’ it said on Twitter.

Media images appeared to show buildings at Chateau Boswell winery on fire, although the extent of any damage was not known.

Cal Fire said in an incident report on Monday morning that no structures had been destroyed by the Glass Fire, although around 8,500 were under threat and the blaze was 0% contained. There was concern, too, about a ‘red flag warning’ of high winds, which can hinder containment.

Trade body Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) used Twitter to thank fire crews and first responders for their ‘amazing work’.

A spokesperson for NVV said on Monday morning, ‘The Glass Fire in Napa County is a rapidly evolving situation, and our hearts go out to the families directly impacted.

‘We are grateful to the first responders, law enforcement personnel, community leaders and volunteers who are working tirelessly to help our communities. We do not know the extent of damage at this time.’

Two other fires have also led to evacuation orders – the Boysen fire north-east of Santa Rosa and the Shady fire to the west of St-Helena – according to NBC Bay Area news.

The latest fire concerns follow a difficult month across the US west coast.

Since 15 August, there have been 26 deaths in California due to wildfires, with more than 7,000 structures destroyed. ‘More than 17,000 firefighters remain on the front lines,’ said Cal Fire.

While damage to vineyards has been extremely limited in the overall context of the state’s wine industry, laboratories have been inundated with requests to test grapes being picked in the 2020 harvest for signs of smoke taint.

Again, trade bodies and producers have said it’s too soon to know the scale of any issue, with several wineries reporting good quality fruit coming into the cellars. However, a group of leading wine bodies across California, Oregon and Washington have also warned that some growers faced financial difficulties after seeing their fruit rejected by buyers due to smoke taint concerns.

Updated at 19:40 UK time on 28 September to include additional comment from Napa Valley Vintners.

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Source: Chris Mercer