Updated: Sonoma County wildfires latest

The Kincade Fire has now burned 76,138 acres (30,811 hectares) and is just 15% contained. It has destroyed at least 124 structures, including 86 homes.

Evacuation orders were in place for about 185,000 Sonoma County residents as various agencies are battling the fire aggressively from the land and air.

The causes of the fire, which started on 23rd October,  include exceptionally strong wind gusts, extremely low humidity and bone-dry conditions on the ground.

The local power company, PG&E executed preemptive mandatory power shutoffs to over one and a half million customers, but ironically, a high voltage power line – left on – is a possible culprit for the Kincade fire, which began in the wooded areas east of Geyserville.

‘I am so impressed with the communications of the first responders and the woman and manpower involved. It’s awe-inspiring,’ said Chris Hanna, President of Hanna winery which has been damaged but spared devastation, partially due to the vineyards themselves, which protected the winery.

Whilst a few wineries have been damaged, most of the picking for the 2019 harvest had already happened. According to the Sonoma County Vintners, ‘92% of grapes have been picked and we look forward to an exceptional 2019 vintage.’

On its Facebook page, Sonoma County Vintners announced ‘Our friends at Soda Rock Winery have had damage to their tasting room. However, the 2019 harvest has not been affected. Also, the majority of their inventory is stored off-site.’

On the Napa side of the hill, Cate Conniff, Communications Manager for the Napa Valley Vintners said, ‘We’re extremely lucky and totally open for business. That does not diminish the impact felt by our colleagues, friends and neighbours in Sonoma County.’

This conflagration brings back many painful memories of the Tubbs Fire, which devastated Sonoma County, especially the city of Santa Rosa, just two years ago.

‘I don’t know how much more of this I can personally take,’ said Lisa Mattson, Director of Marketing at Jordan Winery in Healdsburg, who evacuated on Sunday morning.

Two years ago, her home was badly damaged in the Tubbs fire.

In the south of California, a fire broke out near the Getty museum in Los Angeles, resulting in further evacuations and power shortages.

Written by Bob Ecker.


October 28th 2019

Two wineries were reported destroyed as the Kincade wildfire continued to spread through Sonoma County on Sunday, with 54,000 acres of land affected and almost 100 structures reduced to rubble.

At Soda Rock Winery in Alexander Valley, the main winery building, two houses, an artist’s studio and a water tower were destroyed, leaving only the stone façade of the 19th-century winery still standing, along with a 20ft steel sculpture of a boar.

Owner Ken Wilson, who restored the historic building after buying the winery in 2000, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Soda Rock’s 2019 wines and some other stocks had been lost in the fire. In a Facebook post, Soda Rock said: ‘We are devastated. We don’t have much information… Our staff is safe.’

Meanwhile, The Spire Collection at Field Stone Vineyard, another Alexander Valley property and owned by Jackson Family Wines, was also reported to have been destroyed by the fire, although the exact extent of the damage was unclear.

There were fresh concerns that the blaze could threaten the towns of Healdsburg and Windsor, where a number of Sonoma wineries are located.

With Knights Valley also in the line of the fire, there were also fears that the blaze could spread into Napa Valley.

Sonoma’s grape harvest was well under way before the fire hit, with about 80% of the crop in Alexander Valley – one of the later-ripening areas – reported as having been picked.

The spread of the Kincade fire, which had expanded to cover an area of nearly 47 square miles by Sunday, has been fuelled by seasonal ‘El Diablo’ winds of up to 90mph. These were expected to ease during Monday, but could increase again on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The fire has so far led to the enforced evacuation of about 185,000 people, with up to 1m left without power because of fears that winds could bring down electricity pylons, creating new fires.

A statewide emergency was declared by California Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday as thousands of firefighters continued to battle the blaze, which was described as only 5% contained.

Two firefighters were hurt while on duty on Sunday, but no other injuries have been reported.

Written by Richard Woodard. 


October 25th 2019

Nearly 6,500 hectares of land near to Geyserville in the northeast corner of Sonoma County’s vast territory had been scorched by the Kincade Fire by Thursday evening (24 October) local time, according to Cal Fire.

It said the blaze was 5% contained as crews prepared to work through the night to prevent flames spreading, and to protect people and properties.

No deaths or injuries had been reported as of Thursday evening, although several homes were reported damaged or destroyed as high wines propelled the fire.

This included a property on the Jackson Family Wines (JFW) estate on Alexander Mountain. The wine group’s chairman, Barbara Banke, and her daughter, Julia Jackson, were among those forced to evacuate. No one was hurt.

A spokesperson for JFW told Decanter.com that the destroyed building was not the current family home but ‘the former Gauer home that is also on the family’s property on Alexander Mountain’.

She added, ‘I can confirm that our wineries located in the Alexander Valley region were evacuated and currently remain closed but have not sustained damage. This included Stonestreet Estate Winery, Vinwood, Vérité and The Spire Collection at Field Stone Vineyard.’

Thousands of residents were issued with evacuation orders in the Geyserville area.

However, Sonoma County Vintners’ executive director, Michael Haney, said late Thursday afternoon that ‘at this time, we have no confirmation of significant winery damage in the affected area’.

He also sought to allay concerns for the wine harvest, adding ‘the vast majority of grapes have been picked and we look forward to an exceptional 2019 vintage’.

Photos and social media messages showed how close the fire had come to several winery estates on Thursday, with some reporting isolated ‘spot’ fires in and around the vineyard.

Robert Young Winery, off Red Winery Road in Geyserville, said on Twitter, ‘As you may have seen on the news, there was/is fire on our property affecting brush and pastures but our structures are still intact. Our family and team are safe.’

Wine estates further away from the fire were on high alert, although had not been directly affected.

Ridge Vineyards closed its Lytton Springs winery, located closer to Healdsburg, as a precaution but the group’s marketing director, Heidi Nigen, said there was no direct impact at Lytton. ‘However, until they get the fire under control everyone is on high alert.’

There was widespread praise and support for fire crews in their efforts to control the blaze.

Written by Chris Mercer.