Favorable Weather Helps Control California Infernos

Despite increased containment, loss estimates could reach $85 billion as death toll rises to at least 40, and fires continue to burn.
A Cal Fire employee surveys damage in the Coffey Park neighborhood caused by the Tubbs Fire on October 13, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

This report on the Northern California wildfires was published on Monday, October 16, 2017.

Firefighters believe they’ve turned the tide on wine country’s wildfires thanks to favorable weather conditions and a surge in help from departments around the country, officials said.

“The main reason for our optimism is we’re starting to see the weather change…We’re also getting a lot more resources,” said Cal Fire operations chief Steve Crawford.  The number of firefighters rose to nearly 11,000 on Sunday, up from 9,000 on Friday.

Daniel Berlant, spokesman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said, “We’re starting to see fires with containment numbers in the 50 and 60 percent, so we’re definitely getting the upper hand on these fires.”

The infamous Tubbs Fire, which laid waste to large swathes of Santa Rosa and tormented Calistoga, was 70 percent contained at press time. Some residents of Calistoga were able to return to their homes on Sunday, though some 75,000 people—including Wine Enthusiast Contributing Editor Virginie Boone—remain evacuated.

“Nothing I can write can possibly convey the scope of the devastation physically, mentally and geographically,” Boone said in a recent first-hand report. She has been evacuated three times:  from her home, her mother’s home and from the home of a friend in Santa Rosa, since the wildfires erupted on October 8. “This part of Northern California will be forever changed and countless lives broken and needing to be rebuilt.”

An On-the-Ground Account of the California Wildfires

The Atlas Fire in Napa, which torched the Signorello Estate along the Silverado Trail, was declared 68 percent under control. Firefighters put the Nuns fire that attacked Sonoma and other parts of Napa at 50 percent containment.

The infernos, now in their eighth day, have scorched more than 217,000 acres, destroyed at least 5,700 structures and left 40 people dead. As of Sunday evening, 174 people were still missing in Sonoma and 74 others remain missing in Napa. Officials are continuing to search for the missing.

“We estimate the California wildfires will profoundly affect the economy of California,” said Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, adding “the loss in tax revenue from businesses no longer around, including the vineyards; the workers who have lost their jobs and can no longer pay taxes as well as other impacts will be quite costly.”

Dr. Myers added, “At this time, we estimate the economic impact of the fires is already approaching $70 billion dollars. Based on our forecast the total costs from this disaster on the economy would exceed $85 billion and, if the fires are not contained in the next couple of weeks, the total economic impact could even reach $100 billion.”

Meanwhile, Calluna Vineyards in Windsor, northeast of the town of Sonoma and southeast of Geyserville, reported as of Sunday it “is intact and unharmed by the wine country fires, as of now.”

Cal Fire’s Crawford, looking exhausted, cautioned that the danger has not passed and that the fires are still burning. And, while there were no new evacuations overnight, people should remain ready to move.

Published on October 16, 2017
Topics: Latest News
About the Author
Leslie Gevirtz
Contributing Editor, Business

An award-winning journalist, Gevirtz spent more than 20 years covering disasters—natural, political, and financial—before becoming Reuters’ wine correspondent; a beat that guaranteed her colleagues were always glad to see her.




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