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Wildfires Continue to Sweep Through Northern California

Brian German Industry

Since late Sunday night, 16 wildfires in Northern California have consumed large areas of Yuba, Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Butte and Lake counties. The fires are spreading quickly, aided by windy conditions with gusts of up to 51 mph. Governor Brown declared Yuba, Sonoma, and Napa counties disaster areas on Monday.

WildfiresThe fires burning in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Yuba counties have collectively taken the lives of at least 15 people. The wildfires have scorched over 119,000 acres altogether and destroyed over 1,500 homes and businesses. Over 100 people are reported to have checked into hospitals with fire-related injuries or health issues, such as burns and smoke inhalation.

The fires are also having devastating effects on the agriculture industry in the area. Numerous farmers and ranchers have already been forced to evacuate, with many more making the necessary preparations to leave if the wildfires continue to progress. Backup generators are being utilized to ensure livestock has access to water if the power goes down and many ranchers are leaving specific gates open so animals will not be trapped in the event the fire gets to their property.

Many of the areas dairy cows, sheep, chickens, and goats were successfully moved to various equestrian centers, shelters, and the Napa County Fairgrounds. Livestock is being relocated to the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo now that the Napa County sites are at capacity. The Sebastopol Grange in Sebastopol and the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa are also accepting evacuated livestock.

Northern California wine production will also feel the impact from the wildfires. While roughly three-quarters of the wine grapes have already been picked, much of the merlot and cabernet sauvignon crops remain on the vine. Produce farmers are also concerned about their freshly harvested winter squash and tomatoes as the fires continue burning.

In Sonoma County alone, the value of agricultural production came close to $900 million last year, according to the 2016 Sonoma County Crop Report. There are over 30,000 dairy cows and 35,000 sheep and goats housed in the area.