News Fire rips through Napa Valley wine country during harvest, forces hospital evacuation

Fire rips through Napa Valley wine country during harvest, forces hospital evacuation

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A major wildfire in northern California is threatening to destroy homes and vineyards as it pushes towards the state’s famed wine-growing valley.

Fire crews have scrambled to try and contain the fire which started on Sunday morning (local time), about 120 kilometres north of San Francisco.

Strong winds pushed the wildfire – named the Glass Fire – across more than 800 hectares of land in the Napa Valley, one of California’s major wine regions.

The blaze began midway through the traditional grape-harvesting period in the valley.

A vineyard on Silverado Trail burns during the Glass Fire. Photo: Jose Carlos Fajardo via AP

The area’s 475 wineries account for just 4 per cent of the state’s total annual grape harvest but half of the retail value of all California wines sold, according to the Napa Valley Vintners trade group.

The fire was within two kilometres of the Adventist Health St Helena Hospital, which had to evacuate all 55 patients.

It was the second wildfire-related evacuation of the 151-bed hospital in a month, after a massive cluster of lightning-sparked blazes swept several counties north of the San Francisco Bay region in August.

Hospital spokeswoman Linda Williams said all patients were safely evacuated by midday on Sunday.

“We had ambulances lined up from all over the Bay area,” she said.

About 600 homes were also evacuated on Sunday, with authorities issuing warnings to another 1400 residents to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

CalFire, the state’s fire protection department, said a fire weather watch would start on Monday across most of Southern California with hot, gusty winds and low humidity predicted.

California wildfires have scorched around 1.5 million hectares in the first nine months of 2020, a new yearly record for the state.

The fires have claimed 26 lives and destroyed more than 7000 structures.

There has been more deaths and destruction in the neighbouring states of Oregon and Washington.