World News – United States – California wine country fires force evacuation of hospital and hundreds of homes


ST HELENA, Calif. (Reuters) – A wind-blown wildfire erupted in the heart of the Napa Valley wine region in northern California on Sunday, spanning nearly 2,000 acres (809 hectares), forcing the evacuation of a hospital and hundreds of homes, authorities said

Fire crews were out in force, scrambling to push back the flames threatening neighborhoods and vineyards at the northern end of the famous wine valley and surrounding hills, about 120 km north of San Francisco

The blaze, nicknamed the Glass Fire, erupted before dawn near Calistoga and raced towards the adjacent communities of Deer Park and St Helena, with flames reaching within a mile of Adventist Health Street Helena Hospital

The 55 patients present at the time were safely evacuated by ambulance and helicopter over the course of five hours of around 7 am, hospital spokeswoman Linda Williams told Reuters

« We had ambulances lined up from all over the Bay Area, » she said, adding that although smoke enveloped the facility, the sky above was clear enough for transport efforts. aerial helicopters

This was the second evacuation from the 151-bed hospital in a month due to a forest fire, after a huge beam of lightning-triggered fires that swept through several counties north of the san francisco bay area in august

Authorities ordered the evacuation of around 600 homes on Sunday, and residents of 1,400 others were warned to be ready to flee at any time, said Tyree Zander, spokesperson for the national forestry department. and fire protection (CalFire) The advisories affected at least 5,000 people, he added

By evening, flames fanned by winds of up to 80 km / h had burned about 1,800 acres (728 hectares) of grassy hills and oak forests, with little to no containment, Zander said

Cause of fire under investigation There were no immediate reports of injuries, but a Reuters photographer in St Helena saw structures that had been burnt down

The fire broke out in the middle of the traditional harvest season in the Napa Valley, recognized worldwide as one of California’s premier wine regions The region’s 475 wineries account for just 4% of the total annual harvest of grapes in the state, but half the retail value of all California wines sold, according to the Napa Valley Vintners trade group

Of the 16 Napa wine districts, or sub-appellations, the Howell Mountain region may have faced the greatest threat, said Lisa Covey, spokesperson for Hall Family Wines, which has kept open. during the day its three tasting rooms in the county

Napa and other wine regions have been hit by wildfires in and around the Bay Area for several years Susan Krausz, co-owner of Arkenstone Estate Vineyards in the community of Howell Mountain in Angwin, said that it would take days or weeks to assess the impact of the last fire on the winegrowers of the valley

“Most people have harvested,” she said, but added: “Anytime it’s a bad time for a fire”

Tom Kaljian, 78, a real estate agent who owns a house halfway between Calistoga and St Helena defied evacuation orders to spend the day with his wife watering their house and drying the brush along a fence separating their property from the Silverado Trail, a key north-south route

« We were told to get out of here, but I was trying to protect our little home, so we stayed, » he told Reuters by phone

After the fire department told him the house was no longer in danger, he added, « I stopped watering then, and went in and took a nap »

The glass fire came as the Pacific Gas and Electric Company said it was temporarily disrupting power to transmission lines in parts of 16 counties in northern and central California to guard against higher risk of forest fires in hot, windy and dry weather

Power cuts for public safety are expected to affect around 65,000 homes and businesses in the region, said PG&E, the state’s largest electricity utility

A warning signal for the extreme risk of wildfires in Napa Valley would be broadcast until Monday morning, Zander said

CalFire said weather monitoring for fires would begin Monday across much of Southern California, following the expected return of warm and gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity

The California wildfires have burned over 37 million acres in the first nine months of 2020, far surpassing any year in the state’s history, killing 26 people and destroying more of 7000 structures

Reporting by Stephen Lam in St Helena; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Clarence Fernandez

All quotes have been delayed by at least 15 minutes See here for a full list of exchanges and delays

Napa County, wildfires, emergency evacuation, St Helena

News from around the world – United States – California wine country fire forces evacuation of ‘a hospital, hundreds of houses


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