California Wine Country Again Besieged by Wildfires

The Glass Fire burns a hillside above Silverado Trail in St. Helena, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

(CN) — Residents of Santa Rosa, California, who fled their homes ahead of the Tubbs Fire three years ago did so again late Sunday and into Monday as the Glass Fire destroyed buildings and threatened several towns in the wine regions of Napa and Sonoma counties.

The three fires making up the Glass Fire Complex exploded overnight, charring 11,000 acres with zero percent containment as of 10 a.m. Monday.

“The fire has been at a dangerous rate of spread and has expanded into Sonoma County,” Cal Fire said in its morning update.

High winds, low humidity and hot temperatures have combined to create an atmosphere conducive to the rapid spread of wildland fires. But the gusty winds are forecast to slacken later Monday, giving hope for some reprieve. 

Overnight, the Shady Fire — one of the three blazes in the Glass Fire Complex — pushed its way over the ridgeline and into the neighborhoods on the eastern flank of Santa Rosa, the same neighborhoods ravaged by fires during the Wine Country fires of 2017. Residents of nearby St. Helena have also been urged to flee.

Flames there at the northern end of Napa Valley threatened to engulf the Culinary Institute of America and the Charles Klug winery.

Residents of a senior living community in Santa Rosa began fleeing on foot overnight before the city sent buses to rescue them.

All told more than 70,000 people have been evacuated in the last 24 hours from various communities in the North Bay. 

Firefighters prioritized saving homes and businesses over fighting the fire, Cal Fire said Monday afternoon. While Cal Fire has been able to deploy airplanes to help in the fight, they had to call off flights to eastern Santa Rosa in the afternoon due to visibility issues, the agency said. 

At a Monday press conference, California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state will remain vigilant as it heads into the traditional peak of its fire season. 

“There is a lot of consternation as that area has gotten hit over and over again over the course of the last number of years,” he said of the Santa Rosa area. 

Newsom said several structures, including some wineries, have burned.

Cal Fire was able to deploy approximately 1,000 firefighters to the Glass Fire, largely because many of the other large fires throughout the state like the Creek Fire, the August Complex and the North Complex have been largely subdued. 

The Zogg Fire, which also started on Sunday, is burning out of control near Redding in the north end of the state. That fire has already consumed about 15,000 acres as of Monday afternoon and is zero percent contained. 

More than 8,000 fires have sparked across the state so far in 2020, with more than 25 major fires currently active. So far, a record 3.7 million acres of the Golden State have burned even as the most dangerous part of wildfire season is just getting underway.

So far this season at least 29 people have perished in wildfires, including three people in the Zogg Fire. The Shasta County Coroner’s Office is working to identify the dead and no other details were available Monday afternoon.

In years past, October and November have proved the worst months for wildfire, though July, August and September 2020 have seen a record number of acres succumb to various fires burning throughout the state.   

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