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Hafner Vineyard

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Fire Update

Tuesday, October 17th at 9:30 am

With the evacuation order lifted, the winery is buzzing with activity again. The cellar and vineyard crews are harvesting the last Cabernet for us. Scott rapidly responds to emails. Steve returns pallets of cardboard back to their safety under the winery eaves. Laurie and Sandy answer calls, complete orders and bill credit cards, while I write what I hope will be the last fire update blog.

Firefighters continue to increase containment. The Tubbs Fire is 82% contained, and the Pocket Fire is 58%. A portion of the Pocket Fire is burning in a very deep ravine that is too dangerous for firefighters, so they are allowing that portion to burn and lighting back fires towards it.

As I reflect on the past ten days, they have become a blur. More and more articles and stories are published about the fires. Some are too horrific to read. Others share unfathomable details. (Firefighters estimate that at times the flames moved 230 feet per second and threw embers a mile away. Winds reached almost 80mph. This San Francisco Chronicle article recounts the fire’s first few hours.) Still others share heartwarming stories. (A giraffe was born, named Tubbs, just days after his mother, her friends and home were saved by their owner at Safari West. Odin, a loyal Great Pyrenees dog, wouldn’t leave his goats, and in a pinch, Stardust, the pony, hitches a ride in a car. Read about them here.)

In the modern era of technology, we have amazing access to information and an incredible ability to monitor the fires. We used an app called Flight Radar 24 which displayed the aircraft in our area and their flight paths, so we could see the air tankers or helicopters attacking the fires. We constantly checked the numerous fire maps. Cal Fire used Twitter and their website to share containment numbers. Our County Supervisor James Gore held daily interviews with Cal Fire Battalion Chief Marshall Turbeville in Geyserville and shared them on Facebook. The Geyserville Fire Department posted information and shared videos of the fire in the hills that we couldn’t see. Groups on Facebook allowed the community to organize donations and spread the word about how to help. My sister, Grace, is living in Bordeaux and was able to track all the sites, sending us updates as we scrambled during moments of evacuation orders. While technology can be overwhelming in our daily lives, during a crisis, it allows communication to flow freely and helps answer questions that would otherwise be driving anxiety.

Throughout this disaster, our area has been very well served by public and political leadership. They were incredible – proactive, informative, dedicated and at times appeared they rarely slept. We are so grateful for their efforts. The public service companies (PG&E and Comcast) worked around the clock to restore electricity, natural gas and internet to our areas. During the first few days, we felt like we were in a bit of darkness, but once those utilities were returned, we had a sense of ease.

Sheriffs, police, pilots and firefighters came from across the country and even some from Canada and Australia. Their willingness to put their lives in danger for the safety of our community is an act of true heroism. No words can express our gratitude for these men and women. We are so grateful for all of you.

As we turn the corner, we now look to the daunting task of rebuilding our community. Estimates are well into the billions of dollars. The housing market was already tight, and now the challenge will be to help thousands find homes. Many businesses were destroyed, leaving people without work. The past ten days have been filled with panic, anxiety and sorrow, but the coming months and years will be a rollercoaster of emotion. Our community will bond together and help each other, but it will be tough. Many people continue to ask me how they can help us from afar. First and foremost, keep the people of Sonoma and Napa counties in your thoughts. We always appreciate that. If you want to do more, I invite you to join us in supporting the North Bay Fire Relief Fund.

Thank you to everyone who has followed our journey through the fires. We feel your support and are grateful for it. Our story is a lucky one, but I think of those whose story did not end as ours has. We are devastated for the people who have lost all their possessions or even a loved one. However, I know that our community will rebuild stronger than before, helping each other along the way. We thank all of you for your continuing support of our family business and our community. 

Monday, October 16th at 4:30 pm

We are happy to report that the firefighters are making incredible progress. Since yesterday, the two fires we are keeping a close watch on have been further contained. Evacuation orders continue to be lifted. 
Fire Containment 101617

Thank you for the many calls, emails and texts to check in on us. Our community is grateful for all of you who are paying such close attention to these fires and the destruction they have caused. We are not in it alone and we thank you for your continued concern, thoughts and prayers.  

Sunday, October 15th at 7 pm

We are hoping that the end is in sight. The two fires that we have been monitoring did not expand their footprints very much, and the firefighters in fact made great progress towards containment. The Tubbs Fire to our south is now 60% contained, and the Pocket Fire to the north is 25%. Many evacuation orders are being lifted.

It has been one week tonight since the fires began. Instead it feels more like a month or maybe two. We have been trying to keep “business as usual” as much as possible. We are grateful for the many patrons who have continued to order wine. The HV team has helped each other try to find normalcy during a time of such uncertainty. As I think back over the week, I am struck by the outpouring of community support. Whether it was volunteering at an evacuation center or donation drop, supporting a chef who is feeding the first responders and victims, taking food to the local firehouse, calling someone you are concerned about or even just giving your neighbor a hug, every act of kindness has brought this community together. 

Saturday, October 14th at 11:30 am

Grandfather/Dick and I are sitting together at our local coffeehouse, The Flying Goat, in Healdsburg. The town is quieter than normal with fewer tourists, but all the tables are full with people continuing their lives.
Grandfather and Kate at the Goat
Yesterday we were at work. Business as usual. We had a nice team lunch together. Between cellar work, a rattlesnake slithered its way into the cellar. Dad/Parke, being the brave snake charmer he is, dispatched it. Around 3:30 pm, we received a mandatory evacuation for the area from the Geyserville Grange to Chalk Hill Road, which included Hafner Vineyard. Although the fire was still a few miles away, the officials were taking extra precautions particularly with predicted high winds for that evening, and the fire had crept a bit closer. The winds were anticipated to reach 50mph and blow south towards Hafner Vineyard and our neighbors. 

Hafner Vineyard team members quickly left for safety. Dick again retreated to Scott and Bill's house in Santa Rosa, but not before making a slight detour into the vineyard to check out the view towards the fire. Once a firefighter, always a firefighter. 

Scott, Parke, Sarah, Martin (my husband), Ted (a friend) and I continued to make final preparations for evacuating the ranch. Three sets of sheriffs came by to ensure that we were leaving. One sheriff gave us the crucial fire safety training: “Black smoke: bad. Red flames: bad. Orange glow: bad. White smoke: ok.” Noted! The law enforcement has been very diligent in making sure people are safe and accounted for. We cannot thank them enough.

Around 6 pm, we worked in teams of two hosing down the winery, homes and hillsides. We left at sundown. Scott went to his home in Santa Rosa to be with Dick, Bill and Laurie, who works at the winery. Parke and Sarah (with Annie the Labrador and Lucky the cat in tow) joined us at our house in downtown Geyserville. On our way there, we could see the fire in the hill tops. Orange flames and a glow. But it was still a few miles away.
Winery View
View out the winery before leaving. The fire glow is not visible. It is to the right of this image.

After dinner, we took a drive back towards Alexander Valley. The flames were less active and glow dimmed. The fires around the town of Geyserville were not visible. We slept easier. 

Happily, the predicted winds did not show up for the third night in the row, giving the firefighters crucial relief. This morning, the smoke lay stagnant against the hillside and in the valley. The Pocket Fire did jump containment lines to the southeast and spread a bit to the east. Despite this, we continue to feel optimistic but are keeping a close eye on it. 

The Flying Goat coffeehouse tends to be a mutual meeting place. As we sit here, sipping our mochas, friends and acquaintances stop in for a coffee. They pause to say hello trying to bring some cheer to the mood, but also share devastating stories of their friends who have lost everything. The destruction is hard to imagine.

We continue to be impressed by the dedication and devotion of the firefighters and the public service employees. There are not enough “Thank You’s” that we can give or words we can say to express the gratitude we have for the men and women who put their lives in danger for the safety of our community. 

Friday, October 13th at 12 pm

On Thursday afternoon, part of the Pocket Fire burned in a ravine that was impossible for fire engines to reach, but firefighters were on foot and helicopters were dropping water. There are few structures if any in that area, so they are not as concerned with it. Instead, their focus is to hold the fire at Geysers Road, which would help to barricade it away from us and other immediate neighbors. Helicopters also attacked the Tubbs Fire to the south of us.

We hosed down the winery and houses before dinner. Parke, Sarah, Scott and Dick stayed on the ranch.
Protecting the WineryOvernight winds were not as strong as predicted, thankfully. The Pocket Fire did grow a bit, continuing to push south. We are about 3.5 miles from the Pocket Fire and 6.5 miles from the Tubbs Fire.

This morning Cal Fire announced containment numbers for the fires:
Fire ContainmentSource: Press Democrat

The Pocket Fire is now just shy of 10,000 acres, while the Tubbs fire is almost 35,000 acres.

The firefighters and public service employees have been working around the clock to protect our community. Our local newspaper, the Press Democrat wrote a piece about the hours that the local firefighters have been working. Read it here. I cannot imagine the sheer exhaustion. With reinforcements arriving, our local firefighters are able to take a 24 hour break after many have worked straight since the fires broke out on Sunday night.

Winds are calm for now, and with sunlight, air strikes can begin. Fingers crossed that the firefighters can take the upper hand. Unfortunately, high winds are predicted for this evening.

As a reminder, you can view the fire map here. If you scroll to the bottom of this blog, you will see the map of the fires on Tuesday and can compare how they have changed. 

Many people have asked about how they can help our community. Redwood Credit Union (in partnership with the Press Democrat Newspaper and Senator Mike McGuire) has created a fire relief fund to assist victims and aid relief efforts. Redwood Credit Union is paying all the administrative costs, so that the funds can go directly to those in need. If you would like, we invite you to join us in supporting this cause. Here is a link

Thank again for your thoughts and concern. 

Thursday, October 12th at 2:45 pm

Yesterday was our fire preparedness day. Hoses out. Large equipment and cardboard to the center of the vineyard. (Vineyards burn slower than the forested hillside near the winery.) Computers to safety.

Parke, Sarah and vineyard manager, David, hosed down the hillsides, trees and buildings around the winery and homes. Dick went to Santa Rosa to stay with Scott and Bill who live on the west side of Santa Rosa. Although they are without gas (no hot water or stove), they are safe. 

The SuperTanker 747 plane dropped fire retardant on the Pocket Fire in Geyserville creating a line to protect the small town. Firefighters were worried that the eastern winds blowing west would push the fire down the hill towards Geyserville. The flight made for quite a scene. Watch a video here.

Overnight winds were forecasted to reach up to 50 mph. Although the Pocket Fire was still a few miles away, evacuations were put in place for our area around 7pm. Parke and Sarah stayed to keep an eye on the ranch. At 1:30am, they woke up in the middle of the night to make sure they couldn’t see any flames. Happily, they did not.

The winds were not as strong as anticipated which we all are grateful for. However, the Pocket Fire continues to move south towards Hafner Vineyard. We are also watching the Tubbs Fire to our south. Both are still a few miles away. We are hopeful for little or no wind today.

We are at work today, a bit sporadically and with very limited computer access. Parke, Sarah and Ricardo are working in the cellar monitoring the fermentations. David harvested three tons of Petit Verdot that we are selling to another winery. He did this all on his own! We are trying to keep “business as usual” but it can be a bit challenging.

Thousands of firefighters and public service employees have rushed to our area from all across the western states. We are grateful for the countless hours they are working to keep us safe while putting themselves in harm’s way.

I am eager for the day that I am not updating this, but if it continues, I’ll be back tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 11th at 1:30 pm

We were pleased that the electricity came last night around 7pm, which meant an early morning for the cellar and vineyard crews. We harvested Malbec and Petit Verdot. The internet is back, so Scott was also able to respond to some emails while fielding phone calls.

As for the fires, they were stable overnight, but this morning, the winds increased. This has left some uncertainty as to the direction the fires will move. We currently sit between the Pocket Fire in Geyserville (under both mandatory and advisory evacuations) and the Tubbs Fire (which began in Calistoga and devastated a large part of Santa Rosa).

To be cautious and proactive, we are unrolling our fire hoses and laying them near the winery and other homes on the property. Cars are packed for a quick exit if necessary. 

We sure appreciate all the thoughts and prayers you are sending and continue to receive many texts, emails, calls, and shout-outs on social media, all of which we are grateful for. If we do not respond in a timely fashion, please do not worry. We will work to respond soon, but we are trying to be as safe as possible.

Thank you again for all your kind thoughts and concerns. We hope to update this blog daily, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 10th at 1:15 pm

Being directly in contact with patrons brings many rewards and that has been very evident over the past 48 hours. We are touched to hear from so many people voicing their concern about the fires in our area. Thank you.

We wanted to give you a brief update. At the moment, we are monitoring a fire to the north of us and one to the south, both currently miles away. We are still without electricity, but we are fine. The HV team is all safe and secure, both families and property. We are thinking about those who have lost everything. They are the focus of our concern. 
View of Alexander Valley from Hafner
Taken at 11am on Tuesday, October 10th. 

For more information, we monitor our local newspaper, The Press Democrat and this fire map.

Fire MapFire map as of Tuesday, October 10th at 9:15am.

The HV Team lives from Cloverdale to Santa Rosa, 30 minutes to the north and south of Hafner Vineyard. At least a third of the team was evacuated yesterday. They were able to find refuge with friends and family. Currently, all our homes are still accounted for.

A son of a team member works for Cal Fire, so we have a look behind the curtain as to what the heroes on the front lines are enduring. He is tired but safe and continuing to battle the fire east of Santa Rosa. Our deepest gratitude to all the men and women who are working to keep the community safe and put out the fires.

We take firefighting seriously here at Hafner Vineyard. Perhaps this comes from Grandfather’s time as a volunteer fireman who has been monitoring the fire himself. We hope it doesn’t come to this, but if need be, we are ready to fight it. Our fire reservoir (aka the swimming pool which was required when we built the winery) is directly connected to the fire hydrant at the north end of the winery. The horse and herd of 12 cows have been nibbling the grasses on the 150 acres of hillside for the past few months, hopefully decreasing the potential fire risk. 

We had planned to pick Malbec yesterday (Monday) but without power, we were not able to. Dad (Parke, the winemaker) had thought about picking on Friday, but he is happy that he chose not to. If we had, we wouldn’t have been able to cool the fermentations which requires electricity. We are hopeful to have electricity soon so that we can begin harvesting, but our focus is mainly on those who were impacted by the fire.

Thank you to many who have asked how they can support our community from afar. Redwood Empire Food Bank (our local food bank) has been working around the clock to provide nourishment to those in need. They are sending truckloads of food to evacuation centers. Click here to help. 

The Red Cross is also here providing support for people which we are grateful for. Donations can be made here

With no electricity, we will be in and out of the office today, so if we miss your call, we apologize.

Thank you again for your thoughts and concern.