Fire in the Wine Country

My thanks to those who have asked if we are OK given the ongoing fires in our area. Fortunately, we are in lots of smoke depending on the wind, but we’re a ways from the fires. Here’s today’s fire map. We live about where the “d” in “Bodega Bay” is on the left of the map.

tubbs fire oct 11

There are three main valleys which contain most of the vineyards and wineries. The Napa Valley runs from Napa on the right side of the map up and to the left through St. Helena to Calistoga.

The town of Sonoma, to the right of El Verano in the center of the map and only half visible (it says “Son”), has a valley that runs up to Santa Rosa.

Finally, there’s a valley that runs from Petaluma, just left of center, up to Cloverdale at the top left. All of these contain a variety of vineyards and wineries.

As you can see, all of these valleys and more have been affected by the fires. A number of residential areas in the north of Santa Rosa have been totally levelled. Friends of ours lost their home, burnt to the ground. Ah, up in smoke, the photographs, familiar chairs and tables, thirty years of memories, musical instruments …

So my heart and my best wishes go out to those affected.

Best to all of you, stay safe in this uncertain world,


20 thoughts on “Fire in the Wine Country

  1. My daughter and her family live in the East Bay area which is downwind of the fire’s smoke blowing via the Diablo wind from east to west. The air quality index varies from yellow to reds (worst) and then to deep red (worst still). Smoke infiltrates their home; headaches and more symptoms, varying from person to person. Daughter tried to find a HEPA home air filter, none to be found. All stores out of masks. Store shelves barren of respiratory equipment. A peek outside reveals a “mist” when looking down the street, obscuring once familiar landmarks. Air quality alerts are to continue through the weekend.
    The sun is an orange disc in the sky. The moon, another orange disc but in the night sky.

    Here in the Mid-West we have rain, and rain, and rain. Pollen and pollutants scrubbed from the air.


    • Thanks, RiHo08. The winds have been crazy. The Tubbs fire that burnt Santa Rosa started in Calistoga. At ten PM it was about 200 acres. Driven by a short-lived burst of high winds it expanded to 20,000 acres overnight, and swept over the hill to Santa Rosa.

      Since then, the winds have been northerly. Here’s the latest forecast. We’re supposed to get some gusts tonight, but after that winds are down … thank goodness.

      For the first couple days the wind was blowing northeast, so we got smoke here.

      However, here on the coast where I live the winds blow more from the northwest, off the ocean. Here’s the forecast for the Bodega Bay buoy. Yesterday afternoon, the wind switched back to the northwest here, and today the air was clearer.

      However … even though it’s clear here, the smoke is still going south to the Bay Area. Not fun.




  2. Contrary to recent comments by climate scientist Hillary Clinton, the wildfires are not caused or worsened by anthropogenic climate change. But when the Obama Administration crippled the USFS’s aerial firefighting capability it increased America’s vulnerability to wildfires.

    In the summer of 2011 the Obama Administration abruptly canceled the contract for the U.S. Forest Service’s use of P-3 Orion firefighting planes, which were “the backbone of the aerial firefighting arsenal.” That irresponsible action gutted the U.S. Forest Service’s aerial firefighting capability.

    The Administration’s reasons were mysterious. They claimed it was due to safety concerns, but the planes, though old, had excellent safety records, they were up-to-date on their maintenance and inspections, and they were much, much cheaper than getting new planes.

    The USFS was left with eleven smaller P-2 Neptunes. They went shopping for other planes, mostly BAe-146 jets, but the Orions are still sorely missed.

    The company which operated the Orions was called Aero Union. The Obama Administration’s action put them out of business. Their six big four-engine P-3 Orion tankers were the core of America’s aerial firefighting capabilities. They were the “big boys,” with about twice the payload of the two-engine P-2 Neptunes, and 1.5x the payload of the new BAe-146 jets. I think the USFS also has access to a few Canadian CV-580s, but they’re smaller yet.

    The Obama Administration’s action appeared to be timed to intentionally do maximum damage to Aero Union. They cancelled Aero Union’s contract on the very day that a seventh P-3 Orion, newly outfitted for firefighting, was scheduled to enter service.

    Putting Aero Union out of business not only deprived the USFS of most of the large firefighting planes they used, it also jeopardized the maintenance of the MAFFS systems that Aero Union built, which are used on other firefighting planes.

    The loss of the P-3 Orions drastically reduced the aerial firefighting capability of the USFS, and increased the risks faced by both civilians and firefighters on the ground. I wonder how many people have lost their lives this year as a result.


  3. No serious fires here this year, thank heavens.
    We know when Summer has arrived because these beauties arrive on the island to do firewatching duties.

    If things get really bad they send for the Canadairs.
    Glad to hear you are safe and well away from the ‘Danger Zone’.


  4. Willis
    I am glad you and yours are ok. I have been a silent fan of you since reading your righteous (in the old sense of the word) attack on Judith Curry following Climategate. I enjoy reading and thinking about the refreshing views you bring to science and this life in general.
    I am an old geologist who can see through the cant that goes for modern thought
    Keep it up!


  5. Memory lane.
    About 1977 we flew close over that d in Bodega in a Grumman Tracker aircraft demonstrating airborne geophysical survey equipment that we later used in Iran looking for uranium.
    We flew transects at 200 ft terrain clearance,North over Point Reyes to Bodega Bay and back to get contrast of air and water below. One beautiful, clear day at higher altitude the land below looked like your map and immediately raised this memory. Our host, Sheldon, had done his Ph.D. on eartquake prediction using piezo electric signals from stressed rock minerals and gave us a great tour of the visible aspects of the faulting.
    Later the wife and I visited Napa Valley and enjoyed the architecture of some wineries more than the wine itself.
    Geoff from Australia


    • What an amazing blog. Good to know that Willis is safe, and why the fires are out of control, and where the Ayatollahs got their bomb material.


      • CG,
        They already had acquired enough before we met them. Iranians, that is. Ayotallahs came along as we were ending our year there with the Shah in charge. Geoff


        • Geoff, my unkind words were meant for the State Department. That bunch of kids has to be supervised by an adult, and that happened only recently. They can’t tell a friend from a foe. They spend enormous amount of money on foreign aid, somehow making the US the most hated country. They probably have a degree in conflict resolution which does not work in Ferguson, MO or Berkeley, CA.


  6. Over the last forty years this east coast resident has visited the affected area on numerous occasions, enjoying the scenery, ambiance, people and of course the wine. My wife and I have often thought of retiring there but this tragedy gives us a different perspective. We stayed at the Sonoma Mission Inn in Sonoma a year ago and I hope that this landmark has been saved from these wildfires.


  7. When the smoke clears and the embers cool, there will be photos and maps.
    Such will show some interesting aspects of fires. Trained people will investigate to determine how the information can be used to lessen fire’s impact.
    We have been to 2 fire hazard presentations: 1) Lessons learned from local wildfires [2.6 miles close to us], and how to “Firewise” a property; and 2) megafires and why they will occur via North40 Productions.
    If anyone has a chance, go to such things and be amazed.


  8. I have a place 3 miles south of Sebastopol. The closest fire was 10 miles northeast of us. But it was a little unnerving anyway. We had a few smokey days. It is clear now. The smoke seems to be going south.

    54 years ago there was a similar fire. The county then had 1/3 the population. Since then, homes have replaced orchards and pasture. And everyone plants trees and shrubs close to the house. 30 years ago we replaced out shake roof, which makes good kindling and I remove pine trees near the house. But a fire during Diablo winds, it may not make much of a difference no matter what we do.


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