Janina Lim – Fourth Estate Contributor
Santa Rosa, CA, United States CA – Wind-driven wildfires in the California wine country have so far killed at least 11 people, injured about a hundred, and tore as many as 1,500 residential and commercial properties, according to authorities who anticipate the figures to pile up in the days ahead.
Spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Services Brad Alexander said the Napa and Sonoma counties, home to expansive vineyards and several wineries which attact tourists from around the world, “have been hit very hard.”
The conditions of the grape crop being harvested at the two counties remain uncertain.
“The smoke is very dense,” Fred Oliai, 47, owner of the 90-acre Alta Napa Valley Winery was quoted, adding that the incident is rattling winemakers as exposure to heavy smoke can damage unpicked grapes.
“We got our grapes in last week but others still have grapes hanging,” said Olai who had not been able to get close enough to his vineyards to see the extent of damage on his property.
The Sonoma County said it has received more than 100 missing-person reports but noted that many or most of the missing are possibly safe and simply can’t be reached due to loss of communication services following the incident.
Historically, the month of October has been the most destructive in the annual cycle of California wildfires but the recent onslaught of several blazes is already the deadliest among the wine country’s encounters although conditions late Monday and early Tuesday grew calmer.
Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the fire areas, and asked the federal government to do the same.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence, who is visiting California, said the federal government stands with the stricken state but has not laid out vows on rehabilitation efforts.
Grants has been approved to help finance the cost of extinguishing the 10 fires across California, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency but stopped short of providing an amount.
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