NAPA, Calif (KRON) – Napa Valley winemakers are taking matters into their own hands ahead of peak fire season. They are stepping up to fund wildfire sensors with 24/7 monitoring.
Vintners in Napa County are still reflecting on the 2020 LNU Lightning Complex fire and Glass Fires that devastated their vineyards.
“We lost about a 10,000 square-foot building, about 9,000 cases of wine,” said Tom Davies, president and part-owner of V. Sattui.
According to Napa wine industry groups, the economic loss cost more than $2 billion. To avoid another loss that big, Napa wine groups are stepping up to fund early detection wildfire sensors.
“When I learned that these cameras detected the glass fire nearly 30 minutes before it was reported, we said ‘Look, this is something we need to have monitored. If these cameras have been monitored at the time, who knows what would be the outcome of the glass fire,’” Davies said.
This program was initiated in 2021 by Napa County and was maintained through public funds. To fill the gap, local grape growers also pitched in to keep the sensors active during the beginning of this year’s fire season.
When the service expired last month, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Napa Valley Vintners, and Visit Napa Valley joined together to pay almost $100,000 for 24/7 monitoring of the cameras from September through November.
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“If it gets firefighters on the scene even a minute it’s worth doing and it’s another tool in the toolbox, along with many others just to help minimize the likelihood of wildfires in Napa County,” said Rex Stults, vice president of industry relations for Napa Valley Vintners.
The sensors are located on Atlas Peak, Clover Flat, and Diamond Mountain. After the three-month period, the wine groups are going to follow up with Napa County officials.
“One of the things we want to confirm is whether or not the early detector provides a noticeable advantage to the firefighters in getting to a fire,” said Rick Jones, owner of Jones Family Vineyard. “Preliminary indications are it might but we want to make sure that we got the data to verify that.”