California Wildfires Update: Hospitals And Hundreds Of Homes Evacuated

Wind-driven fires that have erupted in the Napa Valley have forced hundreds of residents, and all patients at St Helena Hospital, to evacuate.

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The fire itself erupted this past Sunday and is burning its way through over 2,000 acres of land, which forced 55 patients to evacuate St Helena Hospital; all of which are now safe. The fires were making their way through the northern end of the vineyard which is covered in various hillsides, this area of land is also about 75 miles away from San Francisco. 

California’s wildfire season has burned through more than 3.7 million acres of land in the first nine months of 2020 alone. This year’s west coast wildfire season has caused more damage and burned through more land than any other year in history. 26 individuals have been killed as a direct result of the fires and over 7,000 buildings/structures have been completely destroyed. 

CalFire is the state’s forestry and fire protection department, and they recently spoke with the media about future plans for combating wildfires. They claimed that starting this week a fire weather watch team would be heavily monitoring parts of California; especially in the southern part of the state that’s been hit particularly bad this year. They’ve also created a multitude of online resources for anyone to use to better prepare their households for the possibility of a wildfire.

“Before wildfire strikes, it is important that you get Set. Prepare yourself and your home for the possibility of having to evacuate.”

Linda Williams is a hospital spokesperson who was working for St Helena when the vineyard fires began this past weekend. The fire was initially started by a glass fire that broke out right before dawn near Calistoga. The second it started it began spreading to the communities of Deer Park and St Helena, where the flames touched down less than a mile away from Adventist Health St Helena Hospital. 

The hospital itself is luckily very small, so all 55 patients that were admitted at the time were able to be safely evacuated by ambulance and helicopter. Patients were relocated to hospitals that were deemed far enough away from the flames. Williams claims they “had ambulances lined up from all over the Bay Area” to get everyone out safely. 

The hospital was also lucky enough that the fires weren’t intense enough to cover the entire sky in smoke, so helicopters were able to airlift patients out of the hospital as well. This is the second time that a hospital in the Bay Area has had to evacuate due to threats of a wildfire this year. Tyree Zander, a spokesperson for CalFire, recently spoke about all the staggering evacuations. 

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“Authorities ordered about 600 homes evacuated on Sunday, with 1,400 other residents being warned to be ready to flee, at least 5,000 people have been affected so far.”

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Zander went on to discuss how by Sunday evening the fires had already burned through 1,800 acres of hillsides and woodlands with little to no containment so far. The start of this fire is still being investigated but as of right now there’s no real evidence of foul play, and it’s likely that this was a natural occurrence, as many of the wildfires this season have been.

This fire is occurring right in the middle of Napa Valley’s traditional grape-harvesting period, and the area alone accounts for 4% of the state’s total grape harvest with its 475 wineries. A spokesperson for one of those wineries claimed that the Howell Mountain wine-growing district faced the greatest fire threat due to its vicinity to the flames. 

Napa and other major wine-growing regions in California have been dealing with combatting wildfire season for years. While most people have harvested already for the year, when it comes to wildfires there’s never an ideal time on a California winery for that to occur. It will likely take weeks for Napa to evaluate the damage that’s been done. 

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company told the media that they would be temporarily halting power to transmission lines in parts of 16 counties across northern and central California. The company claimed these outages would impact around 65,000 homes and businesses; including Napa Valley’s wineries, which received a red flag warning for extreme wildfire risk from PG&E.