Napa Fires

Posted by: balzaccom

Napa Fires - 10/11/17 07:43 PM

Many of you know that we live in Napa. And if you've been following the news, you know that Napa has been suffering through terrible fires this week. Here's what we know.

We're in downtown Napa, so far so good. The fires are mainly in the hills above the valley floor, between Napa and Sonoma, between Calistoga and Santa Rosa, and between Napa and Fairfield. But none of the fires are close to being under control, and there seems to be no timeline for when that might happen. They are just too massive.

They've just announced mandatory evacuations of the town of Calistoga to the north...and lots of people in the outskirts of Napa itself are either evacuated or, frankly, burned out by now. We expect to have some houseguests tonight, who live up in the hills and haven't been home since Monday.

But so far we're OK. What happens next all depends on the wind--which direction, and how strong. There are major fires both East and West of us....but to the North we have vineyards, which don't burn very well. And to South it's clear, so far. But who knows what tonight and tomorrow will bring...I've seen weather reports of winds from 5 mph, which would be great, up to 35, which would be utterly disastrous. In winds like that, embers can carry more than 1/4 of a mile, and jump any barrier the firefighters might set up.

And the winds are projected to be from the that's the best direction for us, really. We can only hope, and suffer with those who are less fortunate than we have been so far.

Thanks to everyone who has sent us their wishes and prayers.
Posted by: JustWalking

Re: Napa Fires - 10/11/17 10:21 PM

I hope the winds stay low and the fires subside soon. Best of luck.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Napa Fires - 10/11/17 10:23 PM

Just heard that the north section of the town of Sonoma is being evacuated. My daughter and her husband live a couple miles southwest of Sonoma, and so far their place is OK. My daughter is currently in Europe (left yesterday), but my son-in-law is an ER physician at the Sonoma Hospital so is still there. I haven't heard if they are evacuating the hospital yet--it's just south of the street that is the evacuation zone boundary, so I'm sure they are at least making preparatory arrangements.

My SIL's mother and stepfather live in Fairfield, fortunately well south of I-80.

I just heard from Canine Companions for Independence (where my late dog Hysson came from) that they have evacuated all the dogs (and the facility's one cat) from their Santa Rosa center. It's not threatened (yet), but the smoke levels are on the extreme end of unhealthy, and a number of their staff have lost homes or can't get in due to closed roads.

The photos/videos from the area are just horrific! Miles of completely burned out houses!

Please stay safe, balzaccom, and any others who are in that area!
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Napa Fires - 10/11/17 11:38 PM

We're all just stunned by the images we've seen and I can tell you that you're in the thoughts and prayers of most everyone here in the Ozarks.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Napa Fires - 10/12/17 12:15 PM

And balzaccom, if you folks can get particulate masks, please wear them when outside! I'm still barking a bit from my smoke exposures at Sisters, OR in August and Portland metro area in September (before I fled). That stuff is not good for your lungs! Just saw an article atating that Napa has the worst air quality in the nation! We had the dubious honor up here over Labor Day weekend.

My SIL has been wetting everything down again. He says there actually is very little wind where he is (a couple miles SW of Sonoma). He didn't mention the hospital. The authorities are handing out advisories (sounds like our Levels 1 and 2 ) way, way ahead of the fires, which is a good thing. They are even suggesting that Petaluma folks think about packing. Since a lot of refugees (plus much of the evacuated livestock) are there, that could really be bad!
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Napa Fires - 10/12/17 11:57 PM

Sounds like the winds will get bad again tomorrow night. My daughter arrived in Germany Wednesday but has now decided to take the first flight back that she can get. It's not much of a vacation when she's spending her whole time viewing horrors on the internet! Plus there's a big need for volunteers, including veterinarians at the animal shelters.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Napa Fires - 10/13/17 10:33 AM

Well, made it through another night last night. But tonight they are concerned about high winds and very low humidity again, conditions expected to continue through Saturday evening. The winds will be highest on the ridge tops. No telling what that will bring.

We're fine in our house in the downtown part of Napa. The smoke is still quite think in Napa, and the streets are pretty quiet. No tourists, and even some of the local have left for greener or safer pastures. We've taken a carload of our most treasured items to my father-in-law's house in the East Bay for safe keeping. Calistoga remains completely evacuated, while in parts of Napa those evacuation orders may be lifted. Others have already lost their homes. Many businesses, including official offices, are closed due to the smoke.

And it all depends on the wind tonight. None of these fires is more than 10% contained...
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Napa Fires - 10/14/17 12:15 PM

One more update on the fires in California's wine country. We live in the center of Napa City, and so far we have had no fires or damage in our part of the city. The smoke has been quite intense from time to time. Since Sunday night the fires have burned some 200,000 acres in the hills on all sides of Napa, but the Napa Valley floor itself has had very limited damage.

Over the past few days, the fires burned in many directions, and fire crews have been able to use that development to establish burned out zones that give us some protection. The two largest fires are the Atlas Fire, in the hills between Napa and Solano Counties; and the Tubbs Fire between Napa and Sonoma Counties. Both of those fires are now more than 40% contained, due to these burn zones. The Nun Fire is in the Mayacamas Mountains between the towns of Napa and Sonoma, and it is still only 5% contained. It is in very steep, rugged terrain, and very difficult to manage. Even in the other two fires, we expect that there are areas that will continue to burn until we get a significant rainfall. But since they are now far from undamaged homes, and hard to access, those areas are not of major concern.

So what's happening right now? Strong winds from the Northeast are blowing on the fires at 20-40 mph. For the Atlas Fire, this means that most of the fire is being driven back over an area that had previously burned in Napa County, so we're hopeful that it won't mean much further damage. But the southern end of this fire is burning towards Green Valley near Fairfield in Solano County, and towards Highway 12 between Napa and Fairfield. We hope our friends over there are still safe. Some areas of southwestern Solano County are now under a mandatory evacuation order.

The more northern Tubbs Fire is burning into the southeast part of Santa Rosa. There are new mandatory evacuation orders in those areas, and the city of Calistoga in Napa County, also south of this fire, is still under a mandatory evacuation.

The Nun Fire is burning towards the town of Sonoma, and mandatory evacuation orders are now in place for most of area east of Sonoma itself. Those are new orders as of last night due to the wind and the growth of the fire.

So eastern Sonoma County is quite seriously threatened. The evacuation orders along the eastern edge of the city of Napa have been lifted in some areas, because there is nothing left to burn, and the active part of the fire is now farther east. And as a result, the evacuation advisories for neighboring areas of Napa have been lifted. Right now the biggest threat to Napa County seems to be the Nun Fire, to the West, which is burning up over the ridge from Dry Creek Road towards the main valley, and the Tubbs Fire threatening Calistoga at the northern end of the valley.

Today the air in the city of Napa is sparklingly clear---due to the winds that are pushing all the smoke south.

More than 90,000 people have been evacuated because of these fires, and the death toll now stands at nearly 40--although more than 200 people are still reported missing. Among our staff, we have one employee whose home is in the mandatory evacuation zone in Sonoma County, one whose home is still under an evacuation advisory in Napa, and another whose home is in an area where the evacuation orders have now been lifted. Friends and colleagues in Napa, Sonoma, and Solano Counties continue to have a gamut of experiences, from miraculous escapes to sad losses of homes.

We have taken a few of our most treasured possessions out of town to keep them safe, and among those are our backpacking equipment. We figured if we really had to manage to live away from home for a while, what is in our backpacks gives us most of what we need: clothing, shelter, water filter, first aid kit, raingear, etc.

The wind is expected to slowly ease later today, and after that we hope to get three or four days of calmer weather, followed by a tantalizing prospect of rain later in the week.

Thanks to everyone who has sent the kind wishes. And thanks also to the emergency personnel, who have done a really remarkable job in utterly overwhelming conditions.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Napa Fires - 10/14/17 01:52 PM

They have evacuated the northeast part of the City of Sonoma and areas along highway 12 all the way to Santa Rosa. The threat there is the Nun Fire which is only 5% contained, but is now receiving the highest priority. The State Parks folks have removed the historic artifacts from the Sonoma Mission, the barracks, and General Vallejo's home (he was the last Mexican governor of California, treated rather roughly by the "founders" of the California Republic, but he continued to live the rest of his life in Sonoma--his lovely home is part of the state historic park). The statue of General Vallejo, wearing a particulate mask and festooned with "thank you" signs for the firefighters, continues to keep watch over the mostly deserted historic Sonoma Plaza.

The Sonoma Valley Hospital where my SIL works won't evacuate until it becomes mandatory, although they are preparing in case.

Still OK at my daughter's place. So far, the forecast high north winds haven't hit. Their van is loaded, my SIL continues to hose things down, and their dog is staying right next to the van to be sure they won't leave without him!

Stay safe!

Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Napa Fires - 10/14/17 04:11 PM

Update--my daughter and SIL have dropped the dog off with friendsoutside the fire danger zone and are out doing volunteer medical/veterinary work at some of the shelters.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Napa Fires - 10/15/17 02:10 PM

I was wrong about the winds yesterday--I was checking Wunderground weather stations for the Sonoma area and they all showed very low winds---but there was enough to push the Nuns fire into NE Sonoma, where some houses burned. They did get that portion contained by yesterday evening, and as far as I know, General Vallejo is still keeping watch over historic Sonoma Plaza. I couldn't manage to upload his photo, but he's still at the top of the City of Sonoma Facebook page.

I haven't heard since yesterday afternoon from daughter and SIL. They are out doing volunteer work so, I'm sure, are very busy. The map (supposedly continuously updated) shows no red dots anywhere near their home.

Per the local news, the winds really have died down, and, per the NWS, it appears there is a good chance of rain later this week--not enough to put the fires out, but enough to dampen them down and allow the crews finally to contain the things.

We've had an early start on the fall rains up here in the Northwest, which has allowed Oregon and Washington to send lots of fire crews and equipment down to you in northern California. I pray that you California folks also get an early start on your rainy season!



Stay safe!
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Napa Fires - 10/16/17 12:59 PM

Looking better this morning with the biggest fires 50% or more contained. Still a lot of fire out there, though!

My daughter-the-veterinarian was on call last night for a couple of the large animal shelters, while her husband-the-physician is on his regular shift at the Sonoma Valley Hospital ER. Their dog is being fostered in Fairfield so he won't be home alone.

On the gloomier side of things, the SAR folks keep finding more bodies, and a water truck driver was allegedly killed in an accident this morning.

Contemplating long term effects (over 5,000 homes gone in an area that already has a significant housing shortage, economic consequences, etc.) is something probably best postponed until the initial shock subsides.

I hope all's OK with you and your family, balzaccom! Stay safe! Stay strong!

It's only because the east winds out of the Columbia River Gorge fortunately died down before the Eagle Creek Fire got this far that the same thing didn't happen here!
Posted by: wgiles

Re: Napa Fires - 10/17/17 07:27 AM

My experience with Weather Underground is that they almost always under report the wind velocities. They seem to rely heavily on personal weather stations and I've never seen one report the wind correctly. Many around here report little to no wind even though I can hear it howling outside. I always check the closest airports for wind speed.
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: Napa Fires - 10/17/17 09:42 AM

We are OK. Still have many friends who don't know about their houses in Sonoma, and a few now threatened in the western Napa Hills. It's going to be a long road...
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Napa Fires - 10/17/17 02:49 PM

Interesting article by a Univ. of Washington atmospheric scences professor on the winds you got last week (and why they varied so much with the terrain): The Real Story behind the California Wildfires

Daughter-the-veterinarian is currently volunteering at the large animal shelter in Napa.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Napa Fires - 10/18/17 04:42 PM

As a former moderator, I thought I should at least attempt to relate this thread to hiking: Fire effects on Sonoma County parks and trails
Posted by: Tones21

Re: Napa Fires - 10/22/17 08:24 PM

I can just imagine how devastated the residents of Napa are. The wine vineyards, the houses burned down. How sad.