Fire Threatens Napa Vineyards

Growers and producers are on the alert in California’s wine country as fire rears its head again.

Fire menaced some of the most expensive vineyard land in North America on Monday, as flames raged out of control towards Napa Valley’s Pritchard Hill.

The Hennessey Fire in Napa was one of several that broke out in the state after an apocalyptic weekend of weather in California. Several threaten fine wine regions, including a large fire in Monterey County that broke out Sunday night, two small fires in the Santa Cruz Mountains and a large fire with evacuations in Contra Costa County.

Let me write in first person for a moment: I’ve lived in California for more than two decades and I’ve never seen anything like Sunday. When I woke up on Sunday morning in normally cool San Francisco, the sky was an angry orange, the temperature and humidity was tropical (a local chef tweeted that it reminded her of her native Thailand), and lightning was visibly crackling every few seconds. It looked like a Hollywood prelude to an alien invasion and/or the end of the world.

After a typically completely dry summer turned all the state’s native vegetation into kindling, most of the state had a record heat wave for two days, joined all day Sunday by that near-continuous dry lightning. We did have some thunderstorms, which was weird – rain is exceedingly rare in California in August, which is why grapegrowing is famous here. But there wasn’t much rain and there was a lot of lightning, starting fires all over the state.