Cowboys Fighting Fires In Napa County

Amateur firefighters are bulldozing their way through the California blazes, but some of the professionals don’t seem too pleased.

In the early hours of California’s wildfires last month, with CalFire racing to answer distress calls across the state, Johnnie White saw fire pouring down the hill toward his house in Pope Valley in northeast Napa County.

“There was no CalFire, no bulldozers, nobody there,” White’s business partner Davie Pina told Wine-Searcher. “The fire was going toward Vacaville [pop. 92,000] and all the CalFire equipment was headed that way.”

Most homeowners would have run for it. But White is co-owner and operations manager at Pina Vineyard Management, and he had some heavy equipment at his disposal: bulldozers and water trucks.

White set up a hose to spray water from his swimming pool, and managed to keep the fire off of his house. With that battle won, he and his son Johnnie Jr got in their bulldozers and drove to nearby James Creek Road.

“The fire was moving so fast already, and some of the houses were on fire,” Pina said. “We tried to build a break around the houses that weren’t on fire.”

All hands to the pump

Pina Vineyard Management was only one of several “cowboy firefighters” who used their heavy equipment to help fight wildfires in wine country two weeks ago. Because California was hit by more than 10,000 lightning strikes in a freakish storm, fires broke out in so may places that CalFire wasn’t able to respond immediately to all of them.