The Glass Fire 2020
The Glass Fire, which started early Sunday, September 27 in Napa County as a 20-acre brush fire, rapidly burned over 67,000 acres. Winds whipped up and down the valley pushing the blaze in all directions and from one side of the northern Napa Valley to the next, engulfing vineyards, wineries, businesses and homes from St. Helena and Calistoga to Santa Rosa over the hill. The Glass Fire was finally fully contained on October 20, 2020, after destroying 1,555 structures, including 308 homes and 343 commercial buildings, as well as 334 homes in Sonoma County. The fire also destroyed or damaged 31 wineries, restaurants, hotels and resorts in the region. These all sound just like government statistics, until it happens to you.
Much of the 2020 grape harvest in the North Coast was either not picked at all, or totally unusable due to the effect of the smoke on the skins of the vines throughout the ongoing fire season that had consumed our lives with evacuations and smoke filled days for 3 months up to that date.
I waited at home, with several neighbors, watching the blaze from the deck of our home at the top of our vineyard overlooking the fires across the hill on Howell Mountain. The blaze grew and spread, but in a northerly direction for most of the day, so I felt fairly safe. Helicopters with buckets dipped into neighbors’ ponds and spread water on the fire, and large DC-10 air tankers flew right into the smoke dropping red fire retardant.
In the late afternoon, the winds were so blustery and erratic that I felt it was time to (once again) leave the vineyard for safety at a friend’s home in St. Helena for the night, as I had done for several other evacuations that summer. But even a residence in town was apparently not safe, and we were again evacuated that night at 3:00 am as the fire enveloped Spring Mountain and came south towards the homes in St. Helena.
On our way out of town that night, I received two messages on my phone from my home alarm company; there was a fire alarm detected in the basement, and, moments later, another one in the kitchen. That answered the question we all had about the survival of our homes. Once we were allowed back into our properties about a week later, the damage to the house and barns was total, while the vineyard was only partially burned, but in a sporadic manner which destined the vineyard for total removal and replanting. With Covid still lurking, no home or possessions to reassure me and insurance companies to deal with, it was going to be a long road to recovery.