It’s wildfire season in California — a season that has become longer in recent years due to the state’s ongoing drought. Some have described California’s rural areas as “one big tinderbox.”
Over the 4th of July weekend, as I drove from Reno to Portland and then to Las Vegas, the top story on the all-news radio station in the Bay Area was the Napa County fire.
I took the accompanying photo on Saturday from the southbound Interstate-5 as I approached Sacramento. Even though Lake Berryessa, the site of the fire, was some 65 miles away, one could see a mix of black and white smoke, which indicated that firefighters were on the scene and making some headway in battling the flames.
It was dubbed the “Butts Fire” because of its proximity to Butts Canyon Road. As reporters provided updates on the radio, I was struck by how distinctive the reporting was. Having grown up in Southern California, I was accustomed to wildfire reports focused on life endangerment and homes threatened.
Indeed, those topics were covered in the radio reports I heard. But there was a third area of concern that made these reports far different from those I’d grown up with: the area’s vineyards.
Name almost any city, and a whole slew of images are likely to come to mind. But when you hear the name “Napa,” the first thing you think of is wine. So when there’s a fire in Napa County, a wine lover can’t help but think about the danger to the region’s grapevines.
Fortunately, in the Butts Fire, no vineyards ever were in any real danger. Even better, there was no loss of life, only a few injuries, and only a few outbuildings destroyed.
All in all, as fires go, this one wasn’t too bad. It was scary at times because of the amount of land it charred — more than 3,200 acres — and one can’t predict when the winds may change and the firefighting dynamics and challenges along with it.
But by Monday night, as this story from KCRA television indicates, the Butts Fire was 95 percent contained. Hot spots were being identified and extinguished, roads were reopened and life was pretty much back to normal.
Still, several weeks remain before the grape harvest begins. Neither growers nor vintners will rest easily until all of the grapes are in, which means we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that no other fires break out between now and then in wine country.