E-blast sent October 19
It's difficult to put into words the tension and stress that all of us who live in wine country have endured these last eleven or twelve days. California's Governor Jerry Brown described the fires as possibly California's worst natural disaster. The Tubbs fire which burned from Calistoga to Santa Rosa just now followed the exact same path as the 1964 Hanley fire, yet instead of taking three days to burn that area the 70 to 80 miles per hour winds drove the fire to Santa Rosa in just three hours. The high winds and the funneling through the down-sloping canyon created its own firestorm and "fire whirls" which were so powerful they uprooted trees and flipped over cars.
Wednesday afternoon we were told that the Tubbs Fire was two miles from us and we had three hours to evacuate. We quickly loaded two Suburbans with our office and important documents only to find out that it was a false alarm. For the past week Stu drove around with our entire office in his car. All last week we worked on fire prevention, including cutting down trees too close to our shop and equipment area. I've estimated that we hosed down and sprinkled over 100,000 gallons of water around the winery and the shop area.
On the other side of the shop is a two-acre open, disked field being readied to replant next spring. We moved all our tractors, spray-rigs, chain saws, power tools--anything and everything that could be moved--onto the field, along with our neighbor's 1929 Ford Model A pick-up and his 1954 Massey-Ferguson Model 35 tractor.
Fortunately we never had to find out whether our preparations were enough. The fires are now completely surrounded and contained, and with up to .75 of an inch of rain expected later today, we can hopefully start talking about the fires in the past tense.
Many, many of you have asked what you can do to help. My answer is simple: come visit Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino wine country. Stay at our hotels, eat at our restaurants and buy our wine. Whether as a winemaker, vineyard worker, restaurant waiter, chef or limo driver, we need your purchasing support.
Fire trucks parked in St. Helena behind Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen.
Firefighters inside, enjoying dinner and hospitality.
St. Helena merchants proudly displaying local support.
Oct 17: The worst is behind us. Even though there are still fires and smoke in the Valley, the danger has passed. Cal Fire has established perimeters around all of the fires and especially the one closest to us, the Nuns Fire. Within those perimeters they're letting the fires burn themselves out; in many places it's too dangerous to try to fight the fires in steep mountainsides and canyons. With about ¼ inch of rain forecast for Thursday into Friday, that should help in snuffing out the last couple of fires and bring the danger to an end. Stu is still driving around with the office and the storage documents in his Suburban. Internet access is now a week off, but we're responding remotely to emails and orders. We are extremely grateful that the fire passed us by, yet we are still enormously exhausted and emotionally spent from the week of worrying about others and ourselves. Our continuing thanks for all of the messages of support. Onward.
Oct 15: Smoke is visible in vicinity beyond Smith-Madrone. We are watching and waiting.
Oct 14: On an eerily pretty day we are watching fires in several directions. We've continued all of the prevention and preparation possible and are cautiously optimistic. Land line and cell service continue to be spotty and we can only respond to email remotely. We continue to appreciate all of the kind messages of concern. People are asking how they can help: here are two options:
Oct 13 am: watching and waiting, strong winds predicted tonight. We continue to have power, intermittent land line and no internet. Tubbs fire to the north of us is 25% contained and Calistoga Road seems to be holding as the fire perimeter. Continuing thanks for all the messages of support.
Oct 12 am: We had a stressful but uneventful night. In the wee hours we could see the red fire on Mt. St. Helena in the distance. To prepare for the evacuation, we have moved all of the office and business records to our home in St. Helena, moved all of the equipment into a disc'd open field, and done other things such as extensive watering. The winds are not yet as severe as had been predicted for today. Most worrisome is that most of the fires in the area are only 1-2% contained. We have power and intermittent land line capability but not internet (we will be monitoring email remotely). We will keep providing updates.
Oct 11 2:41 pm: We have been given an evacuation notice. We will keep you posted. Please note our telephones and internet services are temporarily DOWN. The network we use has a repeater on Mt. Veeder which went down this morning because of the fire there. We will not have internet access at the winery until next week but we will be accessing email remotely. Please know that we will return emails as soon as possible given the complexities of being on fire alert. Thank you.