Kincade Fire damages Sonoma farms, wineries


Issue Date: October 30, 2019
By Kevin Hecteman

As the Kincade Fire burns in Sonoma County, farmers and ranchers assess the damage and help one another and their animals with shelter and feed.

"Right now, we're just really kind of in triage," said Tawny Tesconi, executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, whose Santa Rosa offices were forced to close because of a mandatory evacuation.

The Kincade Fire, which started Oct. 23, destroyed or damaged dozens of structures and led to evacuation orders in parts of Sonoma and Napa counties.

Several wineries in the Alexander Valley area have been heavily damaged or destroyed, including the Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg, whose main structure was built in 1869, according to Tesconi and to local media reports. Field Stone Vineyards also took damage, according to reports, but the extent remained uncertain as of Ag Alert® press time. Others have suffered varying degrees of damage, and some grapes yet to be picked likely will be lost, authorities said.

Tesconi said local organizations have been helping people take care of livestock and horses.

"We have two very well-organized animal evacuation organizations in the county," she said. "They did get some animals out."

The Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa was full and could not take any more large animals, Tesconi said; these were being sent to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

Because of the distance to Pleasanton, Tesconi said, "we've had some of our members email in and respond that they are willing to open up their farms."

"People are kind of doing a lot of grassroots support, from one person to another," she said. "That's how our farmers are."

To facilitate this, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau is helping to match people who have had to evacuate large animals with people who have space for them; interested parties may contact Tesconi at tawny@sonomafb.com.

The county Farm Bureau also sought to help owners of the 107-year-old Oak Ridge Angus Ranch near Calistoga, also called the LaFranchi Ranch, which lost all of its buildings, including homes and a hay barn, in the Kincade Fire. The ranch's large barn and other structures were destroyed in 2017 fires.

A hay drive is underway, Tesconi said; people interested in donating for this and other relief needs related to the Kincade Fire may do so at www.paypal.me/sonomafb.

One lesson learned from the 2017 fires, Tesconi said, is that people want to buy dog food or horse feed and bring that to the evacuation sites. She said although people mean well, "that doesn't always work well because, as we know, animals have got a specific grain that they're eating, or specific type of hay they eat. So it's much better if somebody wants to help if they contribute through a monetary donation."

The Kincade Fire was one of more than a dozen burning in California amid dry, windy autumn weather that also led to public-safety power shutoffs by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and other utilities.

The California Farm Bureau Federation has a relief fund, the Farm and Rural Disaster Fund, established through its affiliated California Bountiful Foundation; for information, follow the link at the top of the homepage at www.cfbf.com. Previously donated funds have been used to buy livestock pens now being deployed to evacuation sites at county fairgrounds.

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.