NAPA VALLEY (KPIX 5) – The Glass Fire, as it’s being called, started on the east side of the Napa Valley early Sunday morning. So how did it get all the way to Santa Rosa in such a short time?
The fire had picked up about 6 p.m. and was moving in the hills along Silverado Trail which runs along the east side of the valley. Winds were actually fairly calm when it suddenly began burning on the west side.
Jack Kissane was with a group of onlookers watching from the safety of Highway 29, or so he thought.
“It looked like you were watching a show, it was sort of stationary almost, as it was burning on the hills,” Kissane told KPIX 5. “But instead the flames were lifting the embers up and over the vineyards to forests on the other side.”
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People watching didn’t even realize that was happening. “No, you couldn’t tell,” he said. “Staring at it, you couldn’t tell.”
The embers Kissane talks about could be found on the streets of downtown St. Helena Monday morning, chunks of charred wood the size of a billiard ball, carried by the wind that are so light and dried out, they crush to dust in your hand.
But, when still hot, they can ignite leaves and grass.
In Napa Valley, the grape vineyards have always been considered an ideal firebreak.
Tom Davies, president of V. Sattui Winery, has been in the wine business in the valley for decades and couldn’t believe it was possible to jump it.
“I mean, the valley at that point is about two miles wide,” said Davies, “So I was, ‘No way it’s going to hit the west side of the valley.'”
But it did. And now many who felt secure going to bed are experiencing loss as well, their homes reduced to ashes.
And that includes V. Sattui founder Dario Sattui. He spent 15 years building Castello di Amorosa, a replica of a 16th Century Italian castle. Now the huge storage building holding millions of dollars of bottled wine is ruined.
And Dario is left to wonder, what if?
“You know, I thought it was over at Silverado Trail, so I thought we were fine,” Sattui said, “But I was wrong. I should have stayed up all night. I’m sorry I went to bed, I don’t know even what I could have done had I stayed up.”
Firefighters fought to save Meadowwood, one of Napa Valley’s world famous destinations. Parts of the 250-acre luxury property are destroyed. One of the main buildings that housed the Michelin three-star Restaurant at Meadowood, The Grill, and a golf pro shop was lost. Flames also crawled onto the tennis complex.
“We’re heartbroken by it, at the same time we firmly, and particularly the Harlan family – Meadowood represents a 60 year dream for Bill Harlan. It’s where he raised his children,” said Brett Anderson, Director of Culture and Communications for the Harlan family. “We’re going to reopen and we believe that the Napa Valley as it has in the past will experience a renaissance after this.”
Meadowood has been owned and operated by the Harlan family for nearly 6 decades. The flames reached the resort at 3 a.m. Monday.
“That’s one of the things that we’re most grateful for is that the local emergency services kept everyone on notice. We were able to get all of the guests and staff safely away,” said Anderson.
Flames also took over another long-standing winery. The 40-year-old Chateau Boswell on the Silverado Trail, in Saint Helena, once a grand stone structure, is now roped off and heavily damaged.