WINE COUNTRY STRONG…..Sunday, October 8, 2017….. The day before, we sent a beautiful couple down the aisle and had a fabulous event, the next day was brunch with their families and one last sweep through the estate where the wedding was held. it was windy…. Santa Ana kind of windy (not uncommon in the valley in October). Typically, the day after a wedding is called the Wedding Hangover… I’d clocked 16-20,000 steps and my mind, body and feet are exhausted. I was going to take a long hot bath, soak my feet and take a nap.
The nap, which lasted way longer than I planned, was the last piece of normalcy since. My bride for the following Saturday crying is what I woke up to and I remember thinking I was dreaming…..I could hear her words….”It’s on fire.” What’s on fire, I asked. Her answer was painful…..her Godparents had gifted her their beautiful estate on Atlas Peak to host her wedding, was burning and I didn’t have a solution to her pain or fear…..it was still windy….Santa Ana kind of windy and with every gust of wind, the fire was growing.
By 7am, my beautiful East Coast bride had decided to postpone….not move her wedding so she wasn’t a burden to anyone that might be affected by the fire….we called all the guests, rearranged flights, cancelled hotels and figured out what to do next……
Next was evacuations……people, homes, animals…..the fires were moving fast and you needed to move. Thousands evacuated from their homes, their businesses and their lives, not knowing if they’d have anything to return to. With evacuations, came the need for shelters, donations, community, prayer and hope.
For eight days, I worked in the shelter at Napa Valley College, managing all the supplies and donations with the most amazing team of volunteers I lovingly called The Honey Pot Crew…..The Honey Pot included college kids, displaced evacuees, the US Marines, the Napa High Football Team, the coaching staff and athletes of Napa Valley College and people that were dropping of donations that we lovingly commandeered (they say I can’t say kidnapped), to put in work. For eight days, thanks to the generosity of the local community and people all over California, we were able to provide for the basic needs of everyone in the shelter as well as several others in the county.
When the evacuation orders were lifted, it was both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. What were people going to find when they got home? Would there be a home, a business, a vineyard, a job? Some of our favorite locations were severely damaged or destroyed and others untouched.
By October 14, the fires had burned more than 210,000 acres (85,000 ha), and destroyed an estimated 5,700 structures while forcing 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes. The Northern California fires have killed at least 42 people and hospitalized at least 185, making the week of October 8, 2017, the deadliest week of wildfires in California history.
What we learned through all of this and maybe always knew, was the human spirit will persevere. Bent, not broken and if broken, soon healed. The people of Napa and Sonoma Valleys are remarkable, resolved and resilient. The same land that produces your favorite wines, harvested by strong hands and mighty hearts are still here.
A huge thank you has to go out to the barrage of First Responders, who in the early days of the fires worked 24, 36, 48 hours straight to contain these fires and support these communities. Gratitude isn’t a big enough word or feeling.
Want to know how you can help? Plan your trips, host your wedding, enjoy the wine, food and people….we need you. If you want to help with monetary support to those most effected by these devastating fires, here are some great resources:
Napa Valley Community Foundation http://www.napavalleycf.org/fire-donation-page/
Redwood Credit Union Fire Relief Fund https://www.redwoodcu.org/
Jameson Animal Rescue https://www.jamesonanimalrescueranch.org
Here’s to seeing you soon…# WINECOUNTRYSTRONG