Fire preparedness and designing defensible spaces is top of mind for our community. Since 2017, 60% of the landcover in Napa County has been touched by fire. Across California, over 4.3 M acres of land burned in 2020 alone. Wildfires have become the new normal in California, so as a community we must work together to be more resilient and better prepared; creating fire ready vineyards and landscapes is essential.
This checklist was developed in partnership with Alan Viader, NVG Wildfire Taskforce member, vineyard manager & winemaker at VIADER and volunteer at the Deer Park Fire Department, and Erick Hernandez of Napa County Fire.
1. Know your area.It is called ‘situation awareness’ in the fire service, but it applies to everybody.
Know the risks in your immediate area, know your best escape routes and be aware of what is always happening around you.
Stay connected: sign up for Nixle, Facebook, and other apps such as Watch Duty that will alert you to any fires in the valley. Consider investing in a HAM radio, get licensed and learn how to use it. These are a way to stay in touch when cell phone towers go down during fires
2. Be ready to go in an emergency
Have your car always filled with plenty of gas; have the important things ready to go
Know when to leave; fire travels faster than you expect, when it is already on your property, it is too late. Homes can burn in a matter of minutes.
Play out the evacuation route: if there is no power, do you know how to open the garage door? Your gate? Work through the details ahead of time when you are calm and have time to arrange plans.
3. Defensible space.This is so important and only works if everyone in your neighborhood participates.
Clean up your property: remove piles of junk and debris; limb your trees and thin out the canopies (spacing between trees is also important. Most forests are too dense. Better to open things up and allow the trees to thrive)
If you have dense forests around your home, create a shaded fuel-break
Have at least 100-feet of clean and tidy area around every structure; 150-feet if you have slopes. As you move closer to the structure itself, space should be even cleaner and more open.
Get rid of oily, flammable plants around your garden and ensure you have a 5 to 10-foot area around any structure – it is critical.
For example: take away that old rosemary bush that's growing right up against your front door. Without the fuel, the fire won't find its way to your front door.
Another fire service term is "ladder fuels". Ladder fuels refer to brush and untrimmed trees that are low to the ground, allowing fire to work its way up, into the low-hanging branches, then up the ladder into the trees, which then spreads from tree to tree.
Defensible space benefits: it protects your property AND gives first responders extra time to assess and develop a plan on how they are going to defend it.
Choose fire resistant landscaping: consider using a natural stone and gravel for landscaping. It's safe, looks more natural and doesn't require irrigation. This type of hardscape can save a property.
Note: wildfires do not always start from another property. Sometimes a structure fire that started in the kitchen can spread to the surrounding landscapes and take out the entire neighborhood.
4. Make access easy and clear onto your property. Remember, most emergencies happen at night and in less-than-ideal situations.
Make sure your address number is large and reflective
Invite the local fire station to your property so they can get familiar with your property. Have them point out anything that is of concern to them and their safety.
If you have a large, complex property with multiple driveways and residences, have a map with available water resources and any access roads and gates. The more information responders know about your property the better.
5. Property signs at entrance
Post signage with a simple map of roads/vineyard avenues, vineyard blocks, available water storage/resources, main electrical panels, turnarounds, etc.
Or post signage in simple list format – see the photo for reference
Install a Knox cabinet to hold detailed mapping information as well as extra sets of keys inside
6. Fire engine access. Make sure access is clear ahead of a disaster; engines need 12-14 feet to easily access and exit your property.
Do you have adequate vertical and horizontal clearance for engines around the main roads?
Can an engine safely enter and exit your property?
Can multiple engines access at the same time?
Do engines have enough room to turn around?
7. Water connections
Proper water connections are critical
Are they the appropriate FD hose thread (2.5" or 4.5" sizes)?
Are there any water draft connections at the storage tanks?
Are they properly marked with blue reflectors?
See the photo for signs and water connections as a reference
In the NVG Content Library members have access to all Wildfire Webinars, How to Work with Winery Partners to Mitigate Risk & Losses, Sampling Protocols, Smoke Taint Research, and Guidance from Insurers
Napa County Ag Pass Program
NVG has worked with the Ag Commissioner, Fire Chief, and Sheriff to improve the Ag Pass Program that allows companies access to properties during fire events for essential ag activities.
Updates from the Napa County Ag Commissioner In an effort to be prepared in advance of potential disasters including fire, the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has developed a streamlined process for issuing “Ag Passes” to eligible commercial agricultural producers that may need to conduct essential ag activities during a disaster.
The Ag Pass program is intended to provide a way to identify vetted production farm and ranch owner-operators and other commodity producers to law enforcement officers and all other emergency personnel at road closures.
The Ag Commissioner’s Office is currently rolling out the 2021 Ag Pass Program in two phases:
Phase 1 begins Monday July 26. Valid Operator ID (OpID) or Restricted Materials Permit (RMP) holders within the CalAgPermits system, will receive an e-mail from an ag inspector with instructions and guidance on how to download and print out their verification card and OpID/RMP. Those entities have been evaluated and qualify for this expedited process.
Phase 2 begins Monday August 2. The Ag Commissioner’s Office will publish and share a link to a live survey for all other ag producers that are not setup within the CalAgPermits system. These producers will submit a request and ag staff will process and confirm verification or deny the application. Applicants may be required to furnish additional verification documentation specific to the type of ag production indicated. The live survey is intended for use by commercial livestock producers, production wineries, agricultural producers/processors, commercial beekeepers and property owners actively involved in their farming operations.
This year, the Ag Pass will consist of TWO parts:
2021 Verification Card: Approval of Essential Agricultural Activities document which must be printed, signed and filled out completely by the applicant.
Additional Verification Document which validates the business as a commercial agricultural operation.
It’s important to remember, the Ag Pass is not a pathway for activity outside of agriculture. Approved Ag Pass holders are expected to only access the site listed on the Verification Card presented to Law Enforcement personnel at a road closure. Finally, access to the Ag Pass program can be revoked at any time for a breach of the guidelines. For more information, please visit the Ag Department’s webpage on the Napa County website where helpful links, How-To’s, and other information related to this subject, will be available soon, or contact the Ag Commissioner's office at (707) 253-4357.
Wildfire smoke and cleanup presents hazards that employers and workers in affected regions must understand. Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases, and fine particles that can harm health. Hazards continue even after fires have been extinguished and cleanup work begins. Proper protective equipment and training are required for worker safety in wildfire regions. Have N95 masks at your property before you need them. Here are the NIOSH-approved N95 Particulate Filtering Facepiece Respirators you can order from.