I noticed a cloud of white puffy smoke rising to the east at about 6 p.m. on Saturday. I knew right away it was a fire. Too hot and windy for delta fog to be creeping over the hill into Napa.
It wasn’t clear where the fire was, since I was in Sonoma, which is west of Napa. But driving home that night at 11 p.m., it was apparent from the smoke and yellow hues tinting a nearly full moon that indeed there was fire. Probably a big one, and likely still going.
As I drove through Carneros, the bends and turns of the highway played tricks with my view. When I finally caught sight of the fire – a rather glorious golden burnt-orange glow of flames and white billowing smoke – it looked like it was in Carneros, and at one point I wondered if Domaine Carneros had caught fire. I drove past the winery, wondering if I’d driven past the fire. But a few moments later I saw the golden flames rising farther to the east, along what appeared to be the Napa-Solano county line.
Then the fire came into clearer view, but I still couldn’t tell exactly where it was. My old reporter's curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to drive until I could see exactly where the fire was. I took Old Sonoma Road to the top of the knoll near Truchard Vineyard. From there I could see the flames distinctly, raging along the hilltop where Napa Valley’s Coombsville and Wild Horse Valley areas turn into Solano’s Green Valley.
I saw many air tankers dropping fire retardant on the blaze. Napa is still smoky now. Fires are very tricky, of course, and with a drought, hot weather and gusting winds, firefighters have a nasty time battling blazes not only here, but throughout the state.
It seems that Napa Valley always makes for compelling news even when it might be bad news, as in a flood or fire. And when Napa’s in the news, wine is usually part of the story. As a rule, there’s not much to worry about when it comes to fire and vines; they don’t burn very easily. But for residents whose homes are threatened by a blaze, it is a terrifying experience.