10 dead, 100 injured in wildfires sweeping California

- A relentless onslaught of wildfires in Northern California is ravaging wineries, rural towns, and whole neighborhoods.

Authorities say at least 10 are dead, at least 100 are injured and at least 1,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed. All three figures were expected to surge in the coming days as more information is reported.

The city of Santa Rosa and its 175,000 residents felt much of the damage, with strip malls, business parks, hotels and subdivisions swallowed up by the fire.

Smaller towns and vineyards in wine country were also hard hit, their residents forced to flee.

Workers in Northern California's renowned wine country picked through charred debris and plotted what to do with pricey grapes after the wildfires swept through their lush vineyards, destroying at least two wineries and damaging many others.

The wind-driven wildfires came as Napa and Sonoma counties were finishing highly anticipated harvests of wine grapes. Monday normally would have found workers picking and processing the ripe grapes to make chardonnay and other wines.

Instead, melted and blackened wine bottles decorated the ruined Signorello Estate winery in Napa Valley. People at Paradise Ridge Winery in Sonoma County posted photos of debris and haze, saying they were "heartbroken to share the news" that the winery had burned.

About 12 percent of grapes grown in California are in Sonoma, Napa and surrounding counties, said Anita Oberholster, a cooperative extension specialist in enology at the University of California, Davis. But they are the highest value grapes, leading to the highest value wines, she said.

It's hard to predict correctly, but she said chances are good this year's crop won't carry much smoke damage.

"Even if wines now were heavily affected by smoke, it doesn't carry over to the next season, only in the fruit itself," she said.

Wineries that escaped damage grappled with the lack of power, which they need to process the grapes.

Taken as a group, the fires are already among the deadliest in California history.

 

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