California wildfires force evacuations of thousands; Sonoma County wineries dodge bullet (2024)

A group of wildfires in California are scorching several areas, forcing evacuations of thousands from their homes and threatening the state's world-famous vineyards.

But on Tuesday the latest reports from firefighters were that injuries were minimal so far. And wine grape growers in northern California are breathing sighs of relief after one of the wildfires was 40% contained and appears to have missed the region's noted grape-growing lands.

The blaze, dubbed locally as the Point Fire, started Sunday and put wineries and residents in famous Healdsburg, California, on edge during the Father's Day holiday, said Lauren Fremont, executive director of Winegrowers of the Dry Creek Valley. But by Tuesday, no wineries had seen significant destruction and it felt like a "best case scenario," she told USA TODAY.

"We really got very lucky and spared for the most part," Fremont said.

The fire destroyed two structures and led to one injury, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and firefighters had contained 40% of the blaze as of Tuesday.

Elsewhere in California, firefighters are battling many other wildfires, including a massive fire burning outside Los Angeles, prompting more than 1,000 people to evacuate.

The Sonoma-area fire was the latest of several in the past seven years to directly threaten the wine region. Weather and climate conditions mean the blazes will likely continue, said Corey Manning, who owns a winery located a quarter of a mile from the recent fire.

"It’s kind of a recurring trauma," said Manning, explaining how many winery owners, staff and first responders in the area come together to do post-traumatic counseling through a music therapy program founded by Rick Allen, the drummer for the rock ban Def Leppard.

High winds and dry conditions spurred blazes in southern California Tuesday, and in New Mexico, firefighters struggled to contain wildfires outside the small town of Ruidoso. Hundreds of structures in the area have been impacted by fire.

Wine country fires are impacting growers

The Dry Creek Valley in California's Sonoma County is known for its Zinfandel grapes, some of which grow on vines that are more than 100 years old, Fremont said. The area also produces exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, she said, and over 30 other types of wine.

Manning's winery, Chateau Diana, is known for its Chardonnay and Cabaret Sauvignon, he said.

"There's a lot at stake, there's the potential of losing our home again," said Manning, who lost his Santa Rosa home to a 2017 fire.

But people are more prepared and aware of reality than ever, he said. More growers are also planting grapes that can be harvested earlier in the season, before October, which is historically when the worst wildfires can erupt, he said. This year, Chateau Diana planted Sauvignon Blanc grapes set to harvested in early September because they wanted to "be done with them before the fire season starts."

"As more fires happen, people are looking at what grapes they're going to plant for the future," Manning said. "That's a long term impact in terms of decisions people are making for what they plant."

One winery on the mountain side of Dry Creek Valley did have minimal fire impact to its grapes, Fremont said, but it was a very small stretch of vine that was burned. The fact that it's so early in the season and the grapes are still young, green and hard contributed to wineries being spared from potentially worse damage, she said.

Wineries escape unscathed by Tuesday

Overall, first responders and Mother Nature's whims meant that a potential catastrophe was averted Sunday night and Monday, Fremont said.

Winds shifted Sunday night, she said, and firefighters were able to rapidly address the fire and prevent it from reaching wineries. In a worst case scenario, an entire crop of grapes − known as an annual vintage − could be destroyed by a fire, or smoke could negatively impact the taste of wine grapes, causing the wine produced to have what's known as smoke taint, Fremont said.

That has been avoided, she said, adding that the quick and heroic efforts of first responders saved the entire Dry Creek Valley from what could have easily become a major crisis.

Manning agreed: "They show up for us on our worst days," he said, referring to firefighters and other responders.

One firefighter was injured Monday, as emergency responders further contained the fire. By Tuesday, the fire - which is burning about 1,200 acres - was 40% contained, according to Cal Fire.

California wildfires force evacuations of thousands; Sonoma County wineries dodge bullet (2)

2 fires converge on Ruidoso

Two wildfires that began earlier this week on either side of Ruidoso, New Mexico, are converging on the village located on tribal lands in southern New Mexico, leading thousands to evacuate.

The fires are like a "pair of tongs," New Mexico Forestry Spokesperson George Ducker told CNN this week.

By early Monday evening, the flames damaged multiple structures, statesthe New Mexico Forestry Division, but how many remains unknown.

The Village of Ruidoso is demanding people leave immediately.

"Please do not try to gather belongings or protect your home - GO NOW," the Village of Ruidoso said in apost on X early Tuesday morning.

Wildfire outside Los Angeles burns 15k acres

The Post Fire burning outside Los Angeles is the largest active wildfire in California, burning an estimated 15,600 acres, according to Cal Fire. The next largest California fire, in Colusa County, is burning 10,000 acres.

The fire, which is burning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, has been hard to control because the blaze is in steep, hard-to-reach areas, Cal Fire said. Weather conditions are also making the fire challenging to contain, officials said.

Winds are leading to heavy smoke that could hamper visibility for motorists on Interstate-5, officials warned, and critical infrastructure like power lines, dams, and oil pipelines are at risk from the wildfire.

Contributing: Anthony Robledo, Julia Gomez

California wildfires force evacuations of thousands; Sonoma County wineries dodge bullet (2024)


How many wineries were destroyed in the California fires? ›

The California wildfires have devastated more than four million acres, of which the Glass Fire has scorched more than 67,000 acres, damaging and destroying structures at approximately 30 wineries in Northern California. Fairwinds Estate Winery.

How do wildfires affect wine in California? ›

In California, wildfires impact wine flavor very rarely. So called “smoke taint” occurs only during a brief time when the grapes are ripening.

What are the 3 biggest wildfires in California? ›

Deadliest wildfires
2.Griffith ParkLos Angeles
4.ThomasVentura, Santa Barbara
16 more rows

Where is the fire in Sonoma County? ›

The fire, which started Sunday near Dry Creek Valley north of Healdsburg, has burned more than 1,200 acres and is 75% contained. All evacuation orders were lifted on Wednesday. Cal Fire officials said they don't anticipate any further fire activity.

Which is better Sonoma or Napa? ›

Visiting Sonoma Valley

Napa might win on being more expensive, but Sonoma is certainly more expansive, spread out, and laid-back. (People often say Sonoma is “less commercialized” than Napa.) It's almost double the size of Napa, and grows far more grapes than Napa in a variety of conditions.

How many people died in the Sonoma fire? ›

Key investments by Board of Supervisors to rebuild Sonoma County. The magnitude of the challenge was daunting: Sonoma County needed to rebuild after the October 2017 wildfires, which claimed the lives of 24 people and destroyed 5,300 homes in unincorporated areas of the county and its cities.

What was the worst forest fire in California history? ›

2018's Camp Fire is currently the most destructive wildfire in California history based on the number of structures destroyed. As it burned in Butte County, the Camp Fire destroyed more than 18,000 structures, most of them homes. The fire is also the deadliest in state history.

What is the largest fire in US history? ›

The biggest wildfire in recorded US history is the 1825 Miramichi Fire. It blazed through an estimated 3,000,000 million acres and claimed at least 160 lives. That makes it not just one of the most widespread fires, but also one of the deadliest.

What state has the most wildfires? ›

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, Texas leads the country with the most wildfires and Alaska leads the county with the most acres burned. California-specific charts below on the Top 10 largest, most destructive, and deadliest wildfires.

When can you burn in Sonoma County? ›

Burn season is generally November — April 30, unless a “red flag day” or “burn ban” is implemented. Once you have made the necessary notification/obtained the required permit, you must determine if it is a permissible burn day.

How many fire stations are in Sonoma County? ›

Together, they staff 11 stations that respond to Bellevue, Bennett Valley, Bodega Bay, Forestville, Fulton, Graton Casino, Guerneville, Larkfield, Mark West, Mountain, Rincon Valley, Rio Nido, Sonoma County Airport, Wikiup, Windsor and the surrounding unincorporated areas.

Where is the Creek Fire in California? ›

Creek Fire (2020)
Creek Fire
Date(s)September 4, 2020 – December 24, 2020
LocationFresno County & Madera County, Central California, United States
Coordinates37.19147°N 119.261175°W
13 more rows

Was Napa Valley destroyed by fire? ›

The 2017 Atlas Fire burned over 20,800ha in Napa County and was among the most destructive in the state's history. The Glass Fire repeated the misery in 2020, burning over 1,500 structures and 27,300ha across Napa and Sonoma.

How many acres were destroyed in California fires? ›

Cal Fire has registered 2,103 wildfires in total so far this year, which have burned more than 66,055 acres and destroyed at least 13 structures.

What was the most destructive California wildfire? ›

These are the five most destructive wildfires in California history when measured by the number of structures destroyed. 2018's Camp Fire is currently the most destructive wildfire in California history based on the number of structures destroyed.

What's the name of the wildfire that has consumed over 50000 acres in California? ›

The McKinney Fire experienced explosive weather-driven growth over the next day and a half, consuming more than 50,000 acres in less than 36 hours, destroying at least 185 structures (including most of the community of Klamath River) and causing 4 fatalities.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tish Haag

Last Updated:

Views: 6079

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tish Haag

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 30256 Tara Expressway, Kutchburgh, VT 92892-0078

Phone: +4215847628708

Job: Internal Consulting Engineer

Hobby: Roller skating, Roller skating, Kayaking, Flying, Graffiti, Ghost hunting, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Tish Haag, I am a excited, delightful, curious, beautiful, agreeable, enchanting, fancy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.