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NY winemakers "sick" at California fire devastation

NY winemakers

Jose Garnica worked for more than two decades to build up his dream home that was reduced to ashes in a matter of minutes by the deadly firestorm striking Northern California. He said, "To see all of this is very strange and a little, makes you a little sick to your stomach".

In Calistoga, a historic resort town known for wine tastings and hot springs, 5,300 people were under evacuation orders.

"We are extremely lucky that our sister winery, Madrone Estate at Valley of the Moon is still standing, however many of their neighbours were not so fortunate", said Tony Stewart, proprietor of Quails' Gate Winery in Kelowna.

Officials were concerned that the many separate blazes would merge into larger infernos.

The ash rained down on the Sonoma Valley, covering windshields, as winds began picking up toward the potentially disastrous forecast speed of 30 mph. Countless emergency vehicles hurried toward the flames, sirens blaring, as evacuees sped away after jamming possessions into their cars and filling their gas tanks.

Michael Kaiser, vice president of Wine America, a national wine trade organization, says it's too early to say how badly the wildfires will impact the wine crop.

Taken as a group, the fires are already among the 10 deadliest in California history, and the death toll is expected to grow.

On Thursday morning, air quality in the most of the region was as bad as Beijing, China's notoriously polluted capital, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Flames have raced across the wine-growing region and the scenic coastal area of Mendocino farther north, leveling whole neighborhoods and leaving only brick chimneys and charred appliances to mark where homes once stood. Until now, the efforts have focused on "life safety" rather than extinguishing the blazes, partly because the flames were shifting with winds and targeting communities without warning. "When you look at the destruction, it's literally like it exploded", California Fire Director Ken Pimlot said.

Orange County fire officials said the blaze was 60 percent contained.

In Southern California, cooler weather and moist ocean air helped firefighters gain ground against a wildfire that has scorched nearly 14 square miles.



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