Did Vineyards Keep California Wine Country Fires From Getting Worse? Some Say Yes

Christian Palmaz used hoes, shovels and rakes to keep flames from his family’s 19th century vineyard estate home on the flanks of Mt. St. George in eastern Napa County.

"Vineyards save lives," said Jennifer Putnam, executive director of Napa Valley Grapegrowers, who has a college degree in forestry. "They saved property and lives in Napa County. It's as clear as it can be." In this photo, rows of grapevines are covered in smoke from the Atlas Fire on October 10, 2017 in Napa. (Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“Vineyards save lives,” said Jennifer Putnam, executive director of Napa Valley Grapegrowers, who has a college degree in forestry. “They saved property and lives in Napa County. It’s as clear as it can be.” In this photo, rows of grapevines are covered in smoke from the Atlas Fire on October 10, 2017 in Napa. (Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

But he didn’t have to worry about his vines. They’re green, very much alive, and a stark contrast to more than 500 acres of oak, manzanita and grassland charred by the Atlas Peak fire as it tore across Palmaz’s property.

As the Napa and Sonoma valleys struggle through days of a raging firestorm that has already claimed at least 23 lives, many vineyards in the nearly 100,000-acre burn areas appear to be emerging largely unscathed, while tens of thousands of acres of oak wildlands as well as entire residential neighborhoods have been scorched.

For all the frightening images of flames consuming winery buildings and firefighters lighting backfires at the region’s postcard-perfect vineyards, the wine country blazes so far appear to be mainly an urban catastrophe.

Read the full story on LATimes.com