Fire crews work through night to contain Napa fire


The fire is near the 3200 block of Soda Canyon Road, north of the Silverado Country Club. It began as a controlled burn that blew out of control and spread quickly because of the wind.

CAL FIRE had at least two helicopters making water drops throughout the day. The major problem fire crews are facing is the wind. There was a wind advisory in effect until about 10 p.m.

The three homes that were in danger around 4 p.m. are still threatened, but fire crews are protecting them. There are a lot of big, expensive homes in the area so that's why the fire protection units are close by. No homes have burned.

There are some wineries in the area, but they were never threatened. In fact, it's a good thing they are there because the wineries create a fire break, just like a highway would, which would stop the fire from encroaching.

Firefighters are on high alert, keeping an eye on hot spots that continue to flare up. The fire began Thursday afternoon along Soda Canyon Road in Napa County. Rick Thornberry lives in one of the three homes that was threatened. His house is only 5 years old and sits on a 60-acre vineyard.

"They wouldn't let me in and I expected that so I went up there and watched the whole time and you're going, 'Oh well, hopefully the wind will keep blowing this way and it won't come up the hill,'" said Thornberry.

CAL FIRE says the fire started after workers at a vineyard were burning a pile of cut-up grapevines. They say an ember blew away and that's what blackened dozens of acres. Investigators are looking into whether the vineyard had the proper permits to conduct such a burn. Regardless, they say because of the day's unusual north winds, workers should have used common sense.

"A lot of people, they don't think about that stuff. And so they need to think fire prevention and think about those conditions out there that could, and in fact, spread a fire," said Brian Hampton, a CAL Fire spokesperson.

Luckily, none of the homes was damaged and Thornberry's vineyard remains intact.

"We just had a meeting this morning with the Hall Wine Company negotiating a new contract. So yeah, thank goodness they didn't get damaged," said Thornberry.

But while there was no damage to property, neighbors don't appreciate the close call, especially since the fire could have been so easily avoided. Jan Krupp owns three vineyards, which total about 120 acres of grapes.

"We have some of the best grapes in the world and we don't want to see them go up in smoke," said Krupp.

There is a lot of dry vegetation down in the hills and valleys and there was no marine layer to speak of, so conditions are ripe for a fire to spread quickly.

"What we're hoping for is that when the sun goes down, the winds kind of die down as well and we'll be able to get a better handle on it through the evening. We are prepared for tomorrow for anther contingent of crews to do some active fire activity work and hopefully have it all buttoned up by tomorrow afternoon," said Napa County Fire Marshal Pete Munoa.

This is an usual winter wildfire that's caught some firefighters off guard. Staffing levels and equipment aren't in place in February the way they are during the summer.

CAL FIRE doesn't know when they'll have this fire fully contained. They say they will be working through the overnight hours.

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