Devastating Wine Country Fires: How Australia Can Do Its Bit

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The above photograph appeared in Wine Spectator. The following letter is from Rebecca Hopkins, an Australian who has been working in the wine industry in America for a decade. She’s been doing her bit to help the fire victims. And now you can, too.

Hello WBM

I am sure you have received many updates on the fires here in Northern California, and the magnitude of devastation to property, winery structures, vineyards and loss of life is beyond all comprehension, even for someone who grew up knowing bushfires were as much part of Summer as a Moana beach swim.

In the last week, the fires have scorched more than 200,000 acres, destroyed or damaged more than 5,500 homes, displaced 100,000 people and killed at least 41.

The speed, escalation, scale and sheer size of the fire fronts changes by the minute and hour, and just keeping up with the fire’s direction and subsequent evacuation areas is nigh impossible.

It is sadly easier to list friends, families, industry colleagues in Wine Country who have not been affected than those who have. However in true NorCal style, people are doing everything they can to support the victims, and while the extent of the damage and long-term impact is still unknown, the immediate priority is getting basic supplies and donations to the evacuation centres and community groups, to help them best deploy resources and manage the unprecedented need for help.

Both counties need immediate and long-term assistance and financial support to help people who have lost everything. The rebuilding of housing, wineries, city infrastructure and the tourism industry that both regions so heavily rely upon, will take years.

For those of us in the wine community not in immediate danger, we are doing everything we can for first responders, volunteers and people affected. There are a number of GoFund Me projects underway, and on a personal note I am helping a small group of wine professionals in a GoFund Me campaign to identify cash and supply needs to those affected both now and in the long term: https://www.gofundme.com/fire-relief-napa-sonoma-counties

Our team of seven completed one drop in Petaluma, Sonoma County, last week to assist 1,300 evacuees and while I’m back in NY this week, the team will deliver more than 1,000 breathing masks to four locations in Napa Valley. Unfortunately we cannot help everyone affected but are focusing on the underserved communities including the backbone of our industry, the farm workers. Immediately their community needs supplies and donations, and down the road we are looking to work on housing needs as many seek to rebuild some of what they have lost.

We are incredibly grateful for any and all help we can redirect, and I never thought I would fast become a specialist in securing commercial quantities of hazard-particulate breathing masks (N95 or N100 are needed), or what water bottle container size is the best for kids (under 250ml), but I’m sure as heck glad I know now.

For anyone interested, reliable resources are listed here including ways you can help from afar:

CalFire Fire Updates: http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents/?page=2
Sonoma Updates : http://sonomafireinfo.com/#/
Napa Updates: https://napavintners.com/community/fires-2017.asp

Thanks for thinking of us here in Northern California and for friends who have connected for updates or offers to help, you make the global Australian wine community the beauty that it is.

Hugs from afar

– Beck Hopkins, Executive Vice President at Colangelo & Partners 

Feature photo: Wine Spectator.

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