By Jess Lander, SF Chronicle
As California enters the height of fire season, Napa wine and hospitality groups have joined forces in an effort to stop blazes from getting out of control.
With government resources spread thin and a wildfire prevention initiative failing to pass in Napa in June, private organizations are stepping in. Together, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Napa Valley Vintners and Visit Napa Valley are spending $33,000 per month for around-the-clock monitoring of artificial intelligence-powered cameras that can detect a fire within seconds of starting.
But the collaboration is only a temporary solution. While it will hopefully help keep residents and businesses safe through the current fire season, the groups also want to send a clear message to Napa County to do more next year.
Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Napa Valley Vintners, and Visit Napa Valley Fund 24/7 Wildfire Detection Sensors
The Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Napa Valley Vintners, and Visit Napa Valley have joined together to fund three early detection wildfire sensors on Atlas Peak, Clover Flat, and Diamond Mountain with 24/7 monitoring to protect Napa County residents and businesses from wildfires. The three organizations have assumed financial responsibility for the service through the months of September, October, and November 2022: the peak of Napa County’s fire season, covering some of the County’s highest fire-risk areas.
The Illumination Technologies (ITC) state of the art “IQ FireWatch sensors” triangulate locations of potential fire threats, including identifying specific parcel numbers in Napa County. This program was initiated in 2021 by Napa County and was maintained through public funds. Continued funding was expected to come from the ¼ percent sales tax proposed in Napa County’s Measure L, which unfortunately did not pass. To fill the gap, local grape growers Caymus Vineyards, E. & J. Gallo Winery, and Circle R Ranch & Vineyards generously donated funds to keep the sensors active during the beginning of the 2022 fire season. When the service was set to discontinue on August 31, 2022, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Napa Valley Vintners, and Visit Napa Valley stepped up to ensure early detection services continue uninterrupted through the end of this fire season. This partnership is a model for community-based resiliency work in the face of increased fire and climate risks that have greatly affected the Napa Valley community over the last several years.
“When we realized the service was at risk of shutting down, these organizations sprang into action to ensure the sensors stayed on. Early detection is a valuable tool in the toolbox when it comes to protecting the entire community from the wildfires like we’ve experienced over the last several years. Now with the partnership between Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Visit Napa Valley, and Napa Valley Vintners, this program will continue to safeguard the Napa Valley community through fire season. We’re proud to carry this community-first, collaborative initiative forward,” said Tom Davies, president and part-owner of V.Sattui Winery, who sits on the Napa Valley Grapegrowers Board of Directors, is the FY23 Chair of Visit Napa Valley Board of Directors, and is a long-time member of the Napa Valley Vintners.
The three existing cameras currently cover 48% of Napa County in high-risk areas. As part of this initiative, Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Napa Valley Vintners, and Visit Napa Valley are committed to working with other industry and community partners during this fire season and onward to implement a long-term plan for maintaining ongoing early detection services and expanding coverage to more areas throughout the County.
To support funding for the wildfire detection sensors, please email Molly Moran Williams, NVG Industry and Community Relations Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Monday, as temperatures reached record highs, the NVG-funded wildfire sensors were first to detect a fire in the Oakville/Yountville area enabling the Fire Department to get it under control right away. Additionally, NVG is awaiting reports on three additional fire detections picked up by the sensors and kept under control within the last 24 hours. With the heat advisory still in effect, we are grateful to have 24/7 early fire detection still in place in high-risk areas of Napa County.
In August, NVG announced carrying forward a fire detection initiative funding three early detection sensors for the month of September on Atlas Peak, Clover Flat, and Diamond Mountain with 24/7 monitoring to protect Napa County residents and businesses from wildfires.
As part of this initiative, NVG has also committed to working with industry and community partners to ensure detection through the 2022 fire season while scoping how to maintain early detection for the long-term for Napa County.