California fires grow to historic heights

Two groups of fires burning across multiple Californian counties and threatening vineyards in the state have now grown to become the second- and third-largest blazes in state history.

Image: The 130-year-old Nichelini Vineyards in Napa, which suffered some damage in the fires.

The LNU Lightning Complex, which includes the Hennessey and Walbridge fires, now covers an area of 347,630 acres across five counties, including Napa, Sonoma and Solano, according to Cal Fire. LNU is now the second-largest fire to burn in California since records began in 1932.

The so-called SCU Lightning Complex, which is also burning across five counties including Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus, now covers almost 344,000 acres, making it California’s third-largest fire.

The two fires are now 21% and 10% contained respectively.

The CZU Lightning Complex is also causing widespread damage in San Mateo and Santa Cruz and now covers an area of 74,000 acres. It has destroyed 163 structures, and damaged a further 12.

Among them was the home of Bradley Brown, the winemaker at Big Basin Vineyards. However, he shared images on social media taken by a neighbour, appearing to show that his winery had survived.

“The whole 2019 vintage is inside the winery,” Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We finished bottling 2,000 cases the day before the evacuation order.” The fate of the winery’s vines, and whether the estate will be able to produce wine this year, remains uncertain.

La Borgata Winery and Distillery in Solano was not so lucky, losing its vineyard, winery, distillery, equipment and inventory in the LNU fires.

A statement posted on social media read: “Somehow our main building (our home) was untouched by the fire but we lost all of our other buildings, including the winery & distillery, and our vineyard. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us from around the world. We are devastated for our neighbors and friends who have lost everything. We are all safe. Our goats, chickens, cats and dogs are safe. We are still in shock and deeply saddened for all who were affected by this fire. We are eternally grateful to the firefighters who came just in the nick of time to help us control the inevitable burn of our winery in a way that no doubt saved our home.”

 

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Somehow our main building (our home) was untouched by the fire but we lost all of our other buildings, including the winery & distillery, and our vineyard. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us from around the world. We are devastated for our neighbors and friends who have lost everything. We are all safe. Our goats, chickens, cats and dogs are safe. We are still in shock and deeply saddened for all who were affected by this fire. We are eternally grateful to the firefighters who came just in the nick of time to help us control the inevitable burn of our winery in a way that no doubt saved our home. Thank you to the firefighters from San Francisco and from Orange, CA – who got the call at 5am the day before to drive 10 hours north to help families and businesses like ours. 🙏🏼❤️

A post shared by La Borgata Winery & Distillery (@laborgatawinery) on

With the exception of some damage at Napa wineries including Brown Estate, Somerston Estate and Nichelini Vineyards, for the most part, producers have been able to continue with this year’s harvest. Meanwhile, in its latest statement, industry group Sonoma County Winegrowers said it was continuing to monitor the fires.

“Our thoughts are with our winegrowers and farmworkers being impacted around the county,” the statement read. “Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation has reopened our Farmworker Resiliency Fund to help agriculture employees who have experienced a loss of home, wages or financial hardship related to fires or evacuations.”

The link to this fund is here.

Further alerts were also issued for Monterey county over the weekend, with the River fire (48,424 acres, 20% contained) and Carmel fire (6,695 acres, 15% contained) continuing to increase in size, with parts of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA ordered to evacuate.

As a result of the destruction, US President Donald Trump has declared a major disaster and released federal aid to help fight the fires. At least six people are believed to have been killed.

Read more:

CALIFORNIA FIRES: WINERIES IN SANTA CRUZ UNDER THREAT

CALIFORNIA FIRES: SONOMA WINERIES EVACUATED MID-HARVEST

FIRE THREATENS NAPA VINEYARDS AS CALIFORNIA STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED

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