Monday, 16 October, 2017

Moving wildfires ravage Northern California's wine country

173768 full Northern California death toll rises to 11 as fires continue statewide
Kristopher Love | 11 October, 2017, 09:42

But California is still dealing with the Santa Ana winds, a meteorological phenomenon which brings dry winds down from the high mountains east of the coastal areas - a recipe for flawless wildfire conditions. In all, some 1,500 homes and local businesses had been destroyed by Monday evening. California's wine industry attracted over 23 million tourists and sold $34 billion in retail value in the USA previous year, according to the Wine Institute, an industry advocacy group.

These winds are created because of high inland pressure, which pushes air down the sides of mountains.

John Dean was driving to his Sonoma County home early Monday when he saw a house on fire along the road. People fled their homes by foot and by auto, some with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Kim Hoe, a 33-year-old tech worker from Penang, Malaysia, was staying at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, which was gutted by flames.

Other counties are sending firefighters and aid to California's wine country, and more help is expected to come.

California's wine industry drew 23.6 million tourists and sold $US34.1 billion in retail value in the United States in 2016, according to the Wine Institute.

For now, the focus is preventing further loss of life.

Wildfires are tearing through northern California's wine-growing regions of Napa and Sonoma, killing at least 10 people, causing evacuations of more than 20,000 and damaging some of the most valuable vineyards and wineries in the US. About 130 patients were evacuated from the Santa Rosa Medical Center on Monday morning due to the fires, and other medical facilities were shut down due to road closures. "We are just trying to keep people alive".

Some of the largest of the 14 blazes burning over a 200-mile region were in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world.

"This is really serious".

"Presently, these fires continue their path of destruction", Brown said in a statement late Monday. "It's not under control by any means. We tasted some, and they were still pretty good, but we smell like smoke, so we don't know what we're really tasting".

Vice-President Mike Pence, who is visiting California, said at an event near Sacramento that the federal government stands with California as it takes on the blazes, but he made no specific promises.

Treasury, which owns and operates about 3750 hectares of vineyards in the U.S., said most of its grapes had already been picked, and just over 10 per cent of the total vintage was still to be harvested in Sonoma and Napa.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in several counties as the fires, which began on Sunday, swept through Northern California and urged Donald Trump to declare an official state of disaster to support local relief efforts.

The counties included Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada and Orange, in response to the Cherokee, LaPorte, Sulphur, Potter, Cascade, Lobo and Canyon fires.