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Wildfire threatens Sonoma wine country

Wildfires which looked to threaten Sonoma wine country should be under control by tomorrow morning, firefighters said.

The fires, which took hold over the weekend, have grown to cover around 5,000ha, destroying four homes, causing scores of people to be evacuated and threatening hundreds more homes. No lives have been lost although there have been injuries.

The biggest fire so far, called the Geysers Fire, broke out north of Geyserville on the Russian River, 10km north of Healdsburg.

According to reports the fire has engulfed thousands of acres of the Mayacamas Mountains and looked like threatening some of Sonoma’s most prestigious names.

Clustered around Healdsburg – where temperatures topped 40 degrees centrigrade as ash fell on the town – are Gallo, Seghesio, Rodney Strong, Simi, Clos du Bois and a wealth of other wineries.

California Department of Forestry engineer Nick Saneahl told decanter.com strong north winds were moving the fires away from centres of population and no wineries were in imminent danger.

‘It’s about 36% contained but we’re expecting hot weather for the next couple of days which makes it unpredictable,’ he added.

In Alexander Valley, reports said, visibility was down to less than half a mile on Monday, the air opaque with thick, acrid smoke.

Helicopters flew above and around the Sausal Winery a few kilometres east of Healdsburg, dropping water on the flames.

‘Jack rabbits were running out of the vineyard and the geese were flying away,’ Sarah Campbell at the winery said. ‘We were worried that as soon as it came over that ridge we’d have to bail, but it never did.’

A CDF spokeswoman said 53 new fires had erupted in California over the 24 hours up to Monday at 4pm. Of these only the Geysers Fire and another at Tehama County had not been contained.

Firefighters expect to have the Geysers Fire contained by 7am Wednesday. Napa Valley wineries have not been in danger.

Written by Adam Lechmere, and agencies

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