Kincaid Fire Destroys Several Wineries and Cattle Ranches
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
The Kincaid Fire, which focused on Sonoma County, did cause much damage to agricultural operations.
“Sonoma County is very familiar with fires, and I wish that were something we couldn’t say. But this fire was a little bit different than the one that hit us in 2017,” said Tawny Tesconi. Executive Director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.
The Kincaid fire burned a little bit differently, in the sense that in actuality impacted more of our small cattle ranches, this time around. Tragically in the previous fire, it was a lot of homes that were burned.
Other Ag operations have been impacted, as well. “Several wineries that have been confirmed as burned is Soda Rock, and then, also Fieldstone. And I don’t want to say any others because I haven’t been able to confirm those,” said Tesconi. “There might be a few other actual winery structures that have burned, and it did hit our vineyards as well. Some of those vineyards are seeing some end post structure damage
However, Tesconi said that vineyards are very excellent firebreaks. Many of the homes that are surrounded by vineyards were able to make it through the fire. “I think any structures that burned came from flying embers,” she said.
There was a severe wind in the Kincaid fired, and it was part of the worst of two worlds hitting at the same time due to the PG&E shutoffs. “But luckily, Sonoma County is very grassroots and very community-based. We’re all helping each other out, and we’re very strong. And so, we’ll come through this one too, like we did the last one, but it’s just a little too close for comfort as far as timing goes.”
This fire was initially caused by PG&E equipment failure. “But I have to say, one thing that I have to shout out and recognize is the effort of our local sheriff and our county administrators and staff. They started doing the necessary evacuations of communities early on. And that can be tough in our county with 500,000 people,” she said.
The evacuation was focused on about 190,000 people. And officials were very organized, in that they evacuated different areas at different times. But even then, it took some four hours to go 10 miles. “So if there’s anything we learned and other communities can learn from this is that we all complained about having to be evacuated when we didn’t think we were in any danger, but it was the safest thing. Lives were saved. No lives were lost on this fire,” Tesconi said.
Some Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards had not been harvested yet. And with grapes are hanging and subjected to smoke—it can cause smoke taint grapes, which leaves them unusable. “We still are trying to get that figured out. The one great thing that our sheriff allowed us to do is that he was allowing our vineyard managers in and pick grapes, even in areas that had been in the evacuation zones because we know about smoke taint,” said Tesconi. “We don’t want to see smoke taint. So our guys got on it. People were helping with the harvest. One vineyard that had already finished harvesting for the year would send their staff over to help get the grapes off a neighbors vine.
One ranch that was the hardest hit was the LaFranchi Angus Ranch, which is up in Knights Valley, right on the Sonoma/Napa line. The family has been ranching for the last 107 years. And they lost seven houses. They lost most of their barn structures. They lost all of their hay, and they don’t know if they lost any animals yet, they’re still trying to assess that. “We’ve been doing a hay drive here at Sonoma County Farm Bureau to get them a couple of loads of hay to get them through the next couple of weeks,
“I’ve got word that there’s another cattle ranch up on the Geyser Ridge. They lost a lot of structures. They lost all their fencing,” said Tesconi. “They’re trying to keep 200 cow/calf pairs on the ranch without any fencing. So I’m sure that’s a challenge.”
“We’re still reaching out to our members, trying to asses all the damages because we have tons of support coming in. We were just notified that American AgCredit is donating a $25,000 matching grant for a program we’re running through Sonoma County Farm Bureau for people to help our farmers that are in trouble,” noted Tesconi. “If anybody wants to donate to that, they can go to our Facebook page, Sonoma County Farm Bureau. So, the awful thing is that we’re going through the tragedy. The good thing is that we’re extremely well supported by all of Sonoma County in our Ag industry.”