Tag Archives: Napa

Wine Country Residents Return To Fields Of Lost Dreams

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — Residents throughout California’s picturesque wine country returned to neighborhoods this weekend where fields of debris and ash stood in place of backyards filled with children, swing sets and weekend barbecues. The devastation was nearly total in neighborhoods like Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park, Fountaingrove and areas of Mendocino’s Redwood Valley. The death toll remained at 43 and more than 7,000 structures — mostly homes — had been turned to piles of debris by the deadliest outbreak of wildfires in California history. READ MORE: Wine Country Wildfires Lines were long Saturday at centers set up to help residents to apply for FEMA loans, state aid and to file insurance claims to begin the recovery process. Early estimates put the losses suffered in the fire to well over $1 billion. Throughout the region residents struggled with memories of those lost, a deep felt thankfulness to the heroes that emerged and an attempt to return to the new normal in the fire-ravaged region. On Saturday night, the sound of a high school band, cheerleaders, stands full of excited fans and the smell of fresh popped popcorn from the concession stand came from Napa’s Memorial Stadium where a prep football game took place.

“Football is really big in this community,” Debbie Kmiec told KPIX 5 as she stood at the concession stand. “I needed it…The kids needed it.” Vintage High player Demitrial Martin stood holding an American flag on the sidelines. “It’s a great feeling being out here again,” he said. “It means the world to everyone.” Merchants and winemakers spend their day on Saturday imploring the vital tourist trade to return to the valley. While their businesses were undamaged by the blaze, the lost of foot traffic caused by the fires was proving to be devastating to their bottom line.

“We were on track to have our best month and best year ever,” said Walt Wines Thrace Bromberger. “Now all is on hold…People are scared to come back.”

Bromberger said on a normal fall Saturday, the winery’s tasting room in downtown Sonoma would host about 150 people. But this week, they will be lucky to get 50 as the vital tourism trade is slow to return. Meanwhile, in one Santa Rosa neighborhood, residents spend Saturday searching for a woman called the ‘Fire Angel’ who appeared out of the smoke and flames to join a bucket line that took water from a resident’s pool and helped beat back the Tubbs Fire. Local resident, Casey Mae Wells, wants to thank the woman in person. “We arrived at our house while she, along with other amazing people, were running back and forth from Elizabeth’s pool to put out the fire across the street,” she wrote on Facebook. “I would love to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts  to this woman … As horrific as last Monday was, I’ve never seen so many come together so selflessly to help.” And many on Saturday many remembered those who were lost. In Mendocino’s Redwood Valley, relatives of 14-year-old Kai Logan Shepherd, recalled his beautiful spirit. He was killed as he attempted to flee the deadly flames with his family. His parents and sister were badly burned and continue to battle for their lives.
“He was just an amazing boy,” said Mindi Ramos, Kai’s aunt. “I wish everyone could have seen that smile of his in person and known what a strong, brave, wise soul he was. Fourteen years was not enough.” With the fires nearly totally contained, the thousands of firefighters who rushed to aid in the battle began to return to their homes in the Bay Area, California and the West Coast. Included among those brave crews were local firefighters — many who lost their own homes — and volunteer firefighters who raced to battle the flames. Signs were everywhere across the valley, thanking them for the bravery and courage. “They put themselves into some pretty bad spots,” said Sonoma Valley Fire Battalion Chief Bob Norrbom. “They were right in the middle of it. They did a great job.”

Mendocino County Wildfire Victims Made Final Phone Call

UKIAH (CBS SF) — As the flames closed in on Jane Gardiner’s Redwood Valley home early the morning of Oct. 9th, she called her step-son to tell him the fire had surrounded her house and she and her friend — Elizabeth Foster — were waiting for the fire department to rescue them. The rescue never arrived, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department. The 83-year-old Gardiner and the 64-year-old Foster were two of the eight Mendocino wildfire victims whose identities were released by the coroner’s office on Thursday. The remains of the two women were discovered inside their completely burned residence on Tomki Road. WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage The other victims were:
  • Kai Logan Shepherd, a 14-year-old from Redwood Valley, was found near his family residence. Officials said it appeared he was attempting to evacuate the area on foot when he was overtaken by the fire.
  • Roy Howard Bowman, an 87-year-old from Redwood Valley, and his 88-year-old wife — Irma Elsie Bowman — were found in the burnt remains of their residence on Fisher Lake Drive.
  • Steve Bruce Stelter, a 56-year-old from Redwood Valley, was found near a vehicle outside his residence in the 11300 block of West Road. It appeared he was preparing the vehicle to be used to evacuate the area when he was overtaken by the fire. The residence was completely destroyed by the fire.
  • Stelter’s girlfriend — Janet Kay Costanzo — was found in the burnt remains of the residence she shared with him.
  • Margaret Stephenson, an 86-year-old from Redwood Valley, was found in the burnt remains of her residence in the 12800 block of Tomki Rd. It appeared she was evacuating through the residence’s garage when she was overtaken by the fire. The residence was completely destroyed by the fire.

Older Couples Unable To Escape The Flames Embraced A Last Time

SANTA ROSA (AP) — Some had just celebrated marriages of half a century or longer. They spent their time volunteering and playing with grandchildren. A few had lived through both world wars. The majority of the 42 people killed in the wildfires that have ravaged Northern California were senior citizens, most in their 70s or older. Several were couples who died together, including childhood sweethearts who had grown old together. WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage A 95-year-old man and his 75-year-old wife spent their final moments huddled in the wine cellar of their home where they had lived for 45 years. The oldest victim — 100-year-old World War II veteran Charles Rippey, who used a walker — is believed to have been trying to make it to his 98-year-old wife, Sara, who had limited mobility after a stroke. Their caretaker barely escaped alive before the roof collapsed and the blaze engulfed the house. An 80-year-old man never made it past his driveway after getting his 80-year-old wife into the car to escape. The two were born four days apart and died together. Some simply clung to each other until the end. Armando Berriz, 76, held his wife of 55 years, Carmen Caldentey Berriz, afloat in a swimming pool as walls of fire burned around them. He let go only after Carmen stopped breathing and the flames had burned out, laying her on the steps of the pool with her arms crossed over her chest. He then walked 2 miles to find help. “This situation has been so tragic on so many levels,” said Caroline Cicero, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “Couples who have been living together for 30, 40, 50 years, especially in their 80s and 90s, definitely might have just realized this is the end. ‘There is nothing we can do, so we’ll go out together,’ which is a beautiful thing. But it’s tragic for those left behind.” If a spouse survived, it will be an extremely painful road to recovery, especially for older people who may never heal, said Cicero, who has worked as a geriatric social worker. Authorities identified two more elderly victims on Wednesday: Monte Neil Kirven, 81, and Marilyn Carol Ress, 71. The heavy toll on older people has raised questions about whether more could have been done to alert the most vulnerable in time to escape. Among the victims were those who had survived strokes, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. They could not move fast enough to escape the speeding flames. Others likely never heard the frantic calls of friends or honking of neighbors’ cars — possibly the only warning that they were in danger. It’s only been since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that cities began drawing up emergency preparedness plans that specifically take the elderly into account, Cicero said. Some cities, such as Culver City in suburban Los Angeles, now allow people to put their names on a list that notifies officials they need priority because they are hearing impaired or have other issues that may limit their ability to evacuate quickly. But Cicero said she is not sure what could have been done in places like Santa Rosa, where a wildfire sprung up quickly and overtook homes in suburban neighborhoods and remote woods at night, giving people only minutes or, in some cases, seconds to escape. George Powell, 74, said he does not know what woke him early Monday. He looked out the window to flames and immediately woke his 72-year-old wife, Lynne Anderson Powell. She grabbed a laptop, her border collie and was driving down their mountain road within minutes. He went for his three border collies and fled 15 minutes behind her in his own vehicle. There was a huge wall of fire along the road. Powell said he realized later that he had driven past his wife’s Prius, which had gone off the road and plunged into a ravine in the thick smoke. Lynne’s burned body was found steps from her car; the dog was found burned to death inside. The couple had been married 33 years and lived in the woods in the Santa Rosa area. She had recently overcome cancer. “If I had known, I would have gone down there with her, even if it meant I would have died with her,” Powell said. “I don’t know how I’m going to cope. She was my life. “She was my life,” he repeated.

Humble Hero Saved 18 From Deadly Wildfire

KCBS_740 CALISTOGA (KCBS) — When the Tubbs Fire exploded outside Calistoga, it raced over a nearby ridge and into the Franz Valley. Within minutes, it was bearing down on Mayacamas Ranch, a 250-acre resort and retreat center on Mountain Home Ranch Road. David Levy, the resort’s owner, realized they had no time to spare, and had to evacuate the ranch.
His longtime chef and ranch hand, Miguel Islas, ran door to door, going from cabin to cabin, telling the 18 guests on the property to get out. While others were leaving, Islas rushed to the pool to make sure no one was there, then checked all the cabins again to make sure no one was left behind, like a pilot on a downed airliner. WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage By then, it was almost too late for Islas to get out safely himself. He drove through a wall of fire, as the ranch was consumed by the flames behind him. He told KCBS Reporter Doug Sovern the wind, and the force of the fire, were so strong, it felt like someone was pushing him from behind. His car windows were so hot, he thought his car would explode. Islas had lived and worked at Mayacamas for 15 years. He kept his life savings of $16,000 in cash, in his room. He was celebrated not just for his giving spirit, but for his amazing cooking, whipping up gourmet meals for the thousands of Bay Area artists, writers, yoga practitioners and others who have been going to the ranch for years. Now, he’s lost everything. Sovern brought him back to the ranch this week, and Islas, and Levy, were both stunned by the devastation. “It’s like a bomb went off. There’s no crater, ” says Levy, “but everything is just incinerated.” “We have nothing. There’s nothing here,” says Islas. “Nothing of the paradise.” Levy says Islas is a hero, who saved 18 lives, but the chef says he’s no hero. He stood sobbing as he poked through the ruins of his beloved kitchen, and searched in vain for something he could salvage. “This was my life. I feel like part of my life is gone,” Islas said. “Seeing my kitchen, I feel like I’m losing a part of my heart.” Islas did find one thing that survived the flames: a small, terra cotta sculpture of seven people in a circle, arms around each other, holding each other up. Levy says it will be a symbol of renewal, and of whatever rises from the ashes of Mayacamas Ranch. The fire left Islas homeless, unemployed, and broke. But he’s already looking to a future, of rebuilding and recovery. “I have my life,’ Islas says. “That’s all that matters. My lives, and the lives of the other people.” A Gofundme account has been setup to help Islas — https://www.gofundme.com/mayacamas-ranch-chef. A GoFundme account has also been setup to help the Ranch — https://www.gofundme.com/MayacamasRecovery.

Wildfires Closer To Containment As Rain Approaches Bay Area

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – Firefighters continued to increase containment of the fires burning in Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties Thursday as officials raised the number of structures destroyed to nearly 7,000, authorities said. Containment of the 36,432-acre Tubbs Fire increased to 92 percent as of Thursday morning. It started around 9:45 p.m. on Oct. 8 near Calistoga and spread quickly to Santa Rosa and elsewhere in Sonoma County. Containment of the 16,552-acre Pocket Fire in the Geyserville area increased 10 percent to 73 percent since Wednesday morning, Cal Fire officials said. WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage Containment of the 34,398-acre Nuns Fire in Sonoma County and the 20,025-acre Nuns Fire in Napa County reached 82 percent as of Thursday morning.  Full containment is expected by next Tuesday, according to Cal fire. The four fires have destroyed 6,900 structures, damaged 330 and threatened 2,435 structures. “The estimates are in structures and our mostly homes, but also includes commercial structures and outbuildings like barns and sheds,” said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. Twenty three of the 42 deaths in California’s October fires happened in a Sonoma County wildfire, making it the third deadliest in California history. A 1993 Los Angeles fire that killed 29 people was the deadliest, followed by the 1991 Oakland Hills fire that killed 25. The Atlas Fire that started around 9:50 p.m. on Oct. 8 off Atlas Peak Road south of Lake Berryessa is 85 percent contained Thursday morning. It has burned 51,624 acres in Napa and Solano counties. The fire destroyed 442 structures, damaged 77 and threatened 876 structures. Reports of increased containment comes as a weather system is expected to dump rainfall on the Bay Area, particularly in the North Bay.

According to KPIX 5’s Neda Iranpour, the mountains of the North Bay could see up of 0.75 inches of rain through Friday morning, while up to 0.25 inches of rain could fall on the North Bay valleys. The rest of the Bay Area could see up to 0.10 inches of rain. TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

Rain Showers On The Way; Death Toll Climbs To 42

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — Firefighters continued to gain the upper hand on the deadliest outbreak of wildfires in California history Wednesday with containment numbers soaring higher and more help was on the way. A storm front was heading to the fire area, carrying with it showers that will further help douse the flames. The National Weather Service said light rain should begin to fall on the Sonoma coast by Thursday afternoon and then spread rain across most of the North Bay by early evening. The storm front was forecasted to then move south of the Golden Gate Bridge by late Thursday and bring scattered amounts of light rain to the rest of the Bay Area Thursday evening and as far south as Monterey County by later Thursday night. While the showers will help slow the fires, they will also clear out the Bay Area skies that have been choked with smoke from the blazes. The Tubbs Fire which brought death and destruction to Sonoma and Napa counties was 91 percent contained by Wednesday morning, having charred 36,432 acres, Cal Fire officials said. The blaze continues to smolder with minimal fire activity and interior burning on the northeast corner. The Atlas Fire which ravaged Napa County, particularly neighborhoods near the Silverado County Club was 83 percent contained and had scorched 51,064 acres. The fire that started off Atlas Peak Road south of Lake Berryessa has destroyed 421 structures, damaged 66 others and was still threatening 986 homes. The 54,423-acre Nuns Fire was 80 percent contained and has burned 34,398 acres in Sonoma County and 20,025 in Napa County. Meanwhile, the Pocket Fire off of Pocket Ranch and Ridge roads in the Geyserville area has burned 12,430 acres and was 63 percent contained as of Wednesday morning. While the firefighters concentrated on controlling the fires, search teams continued their efforts to locate the dead and missing. The Sonoma County wildfire death toll rose to 23 when a man was found in the Fountaingrove area Tuesday afternoon, a sheriff’s spokesman said. “We don’t expect the death toll to go much higher,” Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said. There are 42 known fire deaths from the Northern California wildfires that sparked Oct. 8. There also are 53 missing people in Sonoma County, and 24 of them are homeless people who were living outside the fire zones in the county. Sheriff’s deputies were making sweeps of burn areas so people returning to their homes do not find the body of a loved one, Crum said. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of evacuees were returning to their homes, although more than 30,000 remained evacuated as of Tuesday morning. That number was down considerably from Saturday when an estimated 100,000 people had been forced out of their homes. To aid those evacuees, the California Psychological Association has sent out an “urgent request” by email to a distribution list of about 13,000 licensed psychologists seeking volunteers to help with individuals suffering from emotional trauma. Jo Linder-Crow, the association’s chief executive, said Tuesday the email was sent to licensed mental health providers across California. It warned of “a tremendous acute and longterm impact” caused by the deadly wildfires.

State Investigating Wildfire Evacuation At Senior Care Home

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — State regulators are investigating the evacuations of two assisted living homes for seniors that were damaged when a wind-driven wildfire swept through California wine country, a spokesman for the Department of Social Services said. The two investigations were opened because of information developed during a routine review of evacuations at more than 100 care facilities affected by wildfires, said Michael Weston, the department’s deputy director of public affairs. He declined to answer questions about why the investigations were launched, citing the ongoing probes of Varenna at Fountain Grove and Villa Capris, neighboring properties in Santa Rosa. “Once the investigation is complete all that information would be made public as to what prompted the investigation,” Weston said.
Varenna and Villa Capris are two of four damaged facilities run by Oakmont Management Group of Windsor, California. Villa Capris, which has 63 units including a memory care facility for senior with dementia, was destroyed, according to the company’s website. Portions of the 163-unit Varenna property were damaged. Oakmont Vice President Crystal Robinson did not respond to telephone and email messages seeking comment on the state investigation. “All of our residents are accounted for, safe, and settling into new living arrangements,” Robinson’s email auto response said.
State regulations require licensed care facilities to hold fire, earthquake and disaster drills several times per year. The deadliest wildfires in California history have been burning for more than a week, killing dozens of people and destroying nearly 6,000 homes. About 34,000 people remained under evacuation Tuesday, down from 40,000 on Monday. Many of the dead who have been publicly identified were elderly. \The fire that damaged the Oakmont facilities leveled vast areas of northern Santa Rosa when it swept through in the middle of the night on Oct. 9, sending residents fleeing.

Firefighters From Across The West Come To Wine Country’s Aid

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — It was a battle waged on the northern edge of Sonoma’s wine country, fought along a wooded canyon bordered by wineries and the county’s sprawling juvenile justice center. “We’re in a real good spot,” says Captain Richard Clark of the Pasadena Fire Department. “We’ve got a good water supply here. We’re going to make a stand and see if we can protect these structures in this area.” Managing a strike team on the southern flank of this fire, Captain Clark was also paying close attention to the wind. “Couple things we’re looking at right now is the ash field is doing,” he said. “What we’re getting dropped on us gives us a good idea of what the fire is doing.” On the northern flank, it was a strike team lead by Battalion Chief Jim McCoy of the Santa Barbara City Fire Department. “This fire is backing down the canyon,” explained McCoy. “We’ve got a big dump pile here we want to keep it out of cause this would burn real hot.” Right in the middle of this battle, Lieutenant John Johnson and his crew, all the way from Gig Harbor, Washington. Together, they stormed through trees and brush to protect buildings, cleared debris from rooftops, and beat down flames that seemed to spring up in all directions, all as the air cavalry pounded away from the skies above. “We’ve also got the air crews above us,” says Captain Clark. “So when that happens, the fire front is getting pretty close.” And the air assault is as relentless as the fire itself. The water is coming from a nearby pond, sometimes two helicopters at once, and all of this requires precise coordination with the men and women fighting the fire up on that hillside. “Yep. The way it has to be really,” says Lieutenant Johnson of the air resources. “The water drops from that height could hurt us, so everybody has to be on the same page.” This, of course, just one of the fires unfolding across the region, just one of the ad-hoc teams of firefighters assembled from across the western United States, and just one small piece of a catastrophe that refuses the burn itself out. “I’m from Santa Barbara City,” says Battalion Chief McCoy. “I have a strike team from the county, Montecito, Lompoc, Santa Maria, Carpenteria. So we’re a long way from home.”

Wildfire Water Tender Driver In Fatal Crash Identified

NAPA (CBS SF) — A 38-year-old volunteer firefighter from Missouri was identified Tuesday as the driver killed when a water tender careened out of control and rolled over on the steep Oakville Grade, authorities said. The Napa County Coroner said Garrett Paiz was killed in the crash. The crash involving Paiz — a Cal Fire contractor — was reported at 6:50 a.m. in Oakville, just west of state Highway 29 northwest of Yountville. The tender had been involved in battling the Nuns-Partrick Complex Fire burning in northern Napa County.
cal fire tender crash kpix

Firefighters at the scene of a fatal crash of a water tender truck in Oakville, Napa County, October 16, 2017. (CBS)

“This (the Oakville Grade) is a very, very steep road,” Cal Fire spokesman David Shew said.”The Oakville Grade is the steepest road in Napa County.” Shew would not speculate if fatigue played a role in the crash. “Any incident like this is very tragic,” Shew said. “It effects us (firefighters) personally.”

Sutter Hospital Reopens After Frantic Wildfire Evacuation

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – The last time Dr. Scott Witt stood inside Sutter Hospital’s Neo-Natal ICU, he was franticly calling out orders to get his young patients out as the Tubbs Fire closed in. On Tuesday, Witt was back in the unit as the hospital reopened for business. “We had to wait for ambulances,” he said recalling those tension-filled hours a week ago. “They weren’t available yet and it was starting to be a bit more smokey in here. The flames — we could see from the window.” Witt has jumped on his motorcycle last Sunday night after receiving word about the fire and the threat it presented to the hospital. As others passed him fleeing the flames, he drove into them. Once he arrived at the hospital, Witt began to run alternative evacuation plans through his mind. “If the building did start to catch fire, we could at least move into the parking lot that didn’t have fire in it,” he said. While some the babies were placed into ambulances, others were put on buses that arrived at the hospital to help evacuate all the patients. “We had one more ambulance show up and we loaded it with as many of the stable babies that we could in basinets,” he said. Witt jumped back on his motorcycle and followed that final ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. As he rode, the destruction of the Tubbs Fire was all around him. He was thankful he had told his family to evacuate their Fountain Grove neighborhood home. “They got out, but with nothing,” he said. “By about noon we found out that my neighborhood was totally burnt down.” Witt was not alone. Several of his colleagues both at Sutter and the nearby Kaiser hospital lost their homes while they were helping evacuate patients from both facilities. When asked about his personal loss, Witt says he’s just thankful all his young patients go out alive. “It’s just lovely to have this place and to have the ability to take care of babies,” he said. Sutter did not suffer any damage in the fire, but the Shea House – a facility adjacent to the hospital when families of premature babies were allowed to stay — bore witness to how close disaster had come. The fire reduced it to piles of ash and melted metal. Thankfully, everyone who was there also was able to escape unharmed.