At least 15 wildfires raged across Northern California on Tuesday, burning at least 73,000 acres and destroying at least 1,500 buildings in the region’s famed Wine Country.
Ten people have been confirmed killed, more than 100 reported injured and tens of thousands were evacuated from their homes due to the wind-whipped flames. As many as 50 people were reported missing. Officials expect the toll, both in deaths and property damage, to rise dramatically. As of Monday night, none of the fires was under even limited containment. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency as fire crews rushed to the area.
The most damaging blaze appeared to be the Tubbs Fire, which burned more than 25,000 acres, jumped busy Highway 101 and destroyed entire neighborhoods in northern Santa Rosa, a city of about 175,000 about an hour north of San Francisco.
While damage is still being assessed, the fires — which mostly affected Napa and Sonoma counties — are expected to have a devastating effect on the region’s two major industries: Wine and tourism.
A number of major hotels have burned, including the Fountaingrove Inn and Hilton Sonoma Wine Country in Santa Rosa. The Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa County, which hosted a PGA golf tournament over the weekend, was evacuated overnight as flames approached. The resort tweeted Monday that it was still intact and its guests were all safely evacuated.
— Golfweek (@golfweek) October 9, 2017
On Monday afternoon, flames from the Atlas Fire, which had burned at least 25,000 acres, jumped Napa’s famed Silverado Trail, a thoroughfare lined by a number of famous wineries.
— Evan Sernoffsky (@EvanSernoffsky) October 9, 2017
While it was unclear how many Silverado Trail wineries had been damaged, at least two — Signorello Estates and William Hill Estate Winery — appeared to be destroyed. Social media posts showed flames dangerously close to Chimney Rock and Stag’s Leap wineries in Napa. Yountville’s famed restaurant The French Laundry was closed Monday, but apparently safe for the moment. About 30 vineyard workers on Atlas Peak had to be rescued Sunday night by helicopter as flames cut off escape routes.
— Suzanne Espinosa (@suzyesp) October 9, 2017
In neighboring Sonoma County, fires were closing in on a number of major wineries lining Highway 12 between Sonoma and Santa Rosa, including Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood, Kunde and B.R. Cohn.
“It looks like a bombing run,” winemaker Joe Nielsen told the San Francisco Chronicle after viewing the remains of Donelan Family Wines. “Just chimneys and burnt out cars and cooked trees.”
Consumers nationwide will likely feel the effects of these wildfires for years to come. The fires hit during the grape harvest season, and a number of major vineyards either burned or are threatened, potentially causing years-long shortages of wine grapes. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that while 75% of the region’s grapes have already been picked, most of the cabernet sauvignon and merlot crop was still on the vines.
California produces about 85% of U.S. wine, and Napa and Sonoma counties produce much of the country’s premium wines. California’s wine sales were valued at $34.1 billion in 2016.
Shares of Constellation Brands Inc. STZ, -0.91% , which owns a number of Sonoma and Napa wine brands, fell nearly 1% Monday. Treasury Wine Estates Ltd. TWE, -1.41% , an Australian wine giant with California holdings, fell more than 1% in Tuesday trading.
The fires are also affecting the harvest of another popular agricultural product — marijuana. The fires in Sonoma and neighboring Mendocino counties threaten tens of millions of dollars worth of product from local cannabis growers — both legal and illegal — right in the peak of harvest season. There are an estimated 3,000 legal marijuana growers in Sonoma County alone.
The Wine Country region is heavily reliant on tourism, which is itself inextricably tied to wine. Combined, wine and tourism account for about 100,000 jobs in Napa and Sonoma counties, and generate about $13 billion annually for each county’s economy, according to a 2014 report by a vintners trade group.
The region has been hit hard by disasters in recent years. In 2015, the Valley Fire destroyed nearly 2,000 homes in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties, and in 2014 a 6.0-magnitude earthquake centered near Napa caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and severely disrupted the local wine industry.
Wildfires also threatened homes elsewhere in the state Monday, ranging from the Sierra Nevada foothills to Orange County in Southern California, where more than 1,000 residents were ordered to evacuate Monday after a fast-moving fire threatened homes. Smoke from that fire cast an eerie pall over nearby Disneyland.