Fire Issues

Mar 10, 2014

Update 8/20/20
Beginning on Aug 17, 2020 we experienced the second major fire during our quarter century at the top of Soda Canyon Road. This one came within a half mile of the house, blackening once again the Atlas Peak ridge on the north side of our plateau. One house at the end of our road burned. The Hennessey Fire became the largest Napa County has ever experienced. Its impact on Soda Canyon Road is documented here..

Update 12/12/17
On Sunday Oct. 8th 2017 a fire started on Atlas Peak Road that was immediately blown by fierce winds across the ridge to Soda Canyon Road. On the first night of the fire, within the first few hours, much of the lower portion of Loma Vista Road and Soda Canyon Road up to the pass burned including most of the houses located there. Sadly 2 residents on the road, unable to flee their home, perished. A treefall on the road came close to trapping many cars making the escape. A truck was able to budge the tree enough to squeeze by, avoiding a much greater loss of life by a matter of minutes. As the lower part of the canyon became completely engulfed in flames, residents on the upper parts of the road had to evacuated by helicopter.

The upper part of Soda Canyon Road, the plateau of the Rector watershed beyond the pass (Foss Valley), escaped fires the first night. The fire continued to spread as the winds changed direction, but slackened with decreased winds and increased humidity. By the 10th, the slow moving fire had pushed into the southern, eastern and western edges of the Rector plateau, but eventually burned only 3 houses on the plateau.

By the 14th at the point of containment, the Atlas fire had consumed 51,000 acres, 125 homes and 6 lives. It was one of several fires occurring simultaneously in Wine County which eventually consuming 250,000 acres. 8900 structures and 44 lives.

The events of the fire on Soda Canyon Road as it was happening are here
The aftermath of the fire is covered here

Soda Canyon Road has witnessed and continues to witness many fires. When we first arrived in 1993 we were told by neighbors of their experience of the great fire that burned Soda Canyon and the Rector watershed 12 years before. Major fires had occurred on Soda Canyon Road at an interval of about 20 years, previous ones occurring in 1965 and the early forties. (There are people that have been here that long.) Soda Canyon Road, a dead end road up a narrow canyon has always been a fire trap. Anything coming up the canyon leaves no place to run.

On the flatter areas much of the wilderness, clothed in fast burning chaparral, has given way in the last 20 years to vineyard development, which, with its greener vegetation in the summer and the access roads breaking up the vineyard blocks, means that the fire danger may be somewhat lessened now in some areas on the road. But the steep sides of the canyon and of Rector gorge and the many remaining areas of bushland and woodland remain as volatile as ever. We are now at over 30 years since the last major fire, but each year that we have been here there has been at least one minor fire on the road to remind us that the next big one could be at any time.

The proposal for a major tourist facility at the end of the road should raise some concerns, for the residents and tourists and the county alike. The more vehicles and people coming up the road the more likely some fire starting event will occur, whether from a collision or overturning or a carelessly tossed match or cigarette.

Vivian Manfree's 1981 panorama of the Rector Watershed after the fire

Atlas Fire Maps(2017)
Napa County General Plan Safety Element (2008)
State SRA Fire Safe Regulations 2016
Soda Canyon Fire Safe Council 2012
Calfire SCR incident reports 2007-15
Grand Jury Report on the Napa Fire Department 2007-8
SCR fire hazard map
Soda Canyon-Montecello pre-attack fire plan & map
1981 map of burned homes on SCR and Atlas Peak roads

Valery Wolf LTE 8/13/20: A better approach on emergency warning system
NVR 7/25/20: Proposed emergency sirens will get deeper Napa County look from Board of Supervisors
George Caloyannidis LTE 5/31/20: Immoral policies in our fire-prone zones
NVR 4/24/19: Fleeing fire common in California; evacuation plans aren't
Raymond C Martinez LTE 4/23/19: It's a question of life and death (his experience of the 1981 fire)
NVR 12/30/17: Top 10 Stories of 2017, No. 1: Historic wildfires besiege Napa Valley
Forbes 10/11/17: The Science Of 'Diablo Winds' Fanning California Wine Country Fires
NVR 10/9/17: Wind-whipped wild fires bookend Napa, army of firefighters grows
NVR 10/9/17: Wind-blown fires in Napa and Calistoga prompt major night evacuations, school closures
Yeoryios Apallas LTE 10/5/17: Soda Canyon fire was wake-up call
NVR 10/3/17: Soda Canyon Road reopens after vegetation fire north of Napa
NVR 5/26/16: Firefighters contain fire at Soda Canyon Road in Napa
NVR 2/1/16: County rural road regulations take confusing turn
Napa Historical Society 8/6/15: Atlas Peak Fire
2014: Napa Firewire Bulletin
Patch 11/24/13: Silverado Fire 100% Contained
NVR 11/22/13: Fire on Loma Vista
NBC 11/21/13: 300 Acre Grass Fire Burns in Napa
Patch 5/2/13: Third Napa Valley Fire Sparked off Soda Canyon Road
NVR 5/1/13: Winds heat contribute to fires around Napa County
NVR 2/24/12: Soda Canyon Fire fully Contained
NBC 2/23/12: Crews Fight Vegetation Fire in Napa
CalFire: Report on Feb. 23, 2012 Fire on Soda Canyon Road
NVR 2/24/12: Soda Canyon Fire
NVR 2/23/12: Fire on Soda Canyon Road
NVR 11/2/11: Fast moving fire scares Soda Canyon Residents
NVR 11/2/11: Soda Canyon Fire
NVR 6/22/06: Fire on the Mountain 1981
NVR 5/20/06: Article on Soda Canyon Road Fire Danger and Rick Thornberry
NVR 10/8/05: Wildfire history in Napa County
NVR 6/23/1981 Entire issue devoted to the 1981 fire


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Hennessey Fire and Soda Canyon Road

Bill Hocker - Aug 18, 2020 3:54AM  Share #2113

from Shelle's house looking north from the end of SCR 8/18/20 3:40pm
This post now has its own page here

Soda Canyon to receive fire safety funds

Bill Hocker - Jul 17, 2020 8:23AM  Share #2105

[Barbara Guggia, our Soda Canyon Firewise Council point person, has sent along this note about funds available for fire prevention measures on our road.]

The Napa Communities Firewise Foundation received a $130,000 fuel reduction grant from PG&E and $50,000 will be applied to work along Soda Canyon Road. We sincerely thank PG&E for funding this grant. This fuel break project will provide fuel reduction along Soda Canyon Road and will focus on roadside clearance of fuel, fuel spacing, and the removal of potential strike trees which could block access and egress along Soda Canyon Road. The work will be completed by November 2020. This is great news for the residents of the Soda Canyon community and we are extremely grateful to all the individuals from the Napa Communities Firesafe Foundation who worked hard writing this grant. Their support of our community is sincerely appreciated.

FIre-Safe Watershed Development Initiative

Bill Hocker - Jun 4, 2020 11:01AM  Share #2092

Following the Supervisors denial of the Hard Six Cellars Winery on the remote Diamond Mountain Road, George Caloyannidis has begun a discussion, in the form of a draft initiative, to codify the conditions under which winery projects and their tourism programs may be developed in the watershed areas of the county in order to protect the health and safety of county residents and visitors. Planning Commissioners, in originally approving the Hard Six project, expressed concern that they had no code justification to consider the severe access constraints on this property any differntly than a more accessable winery.

Update 4/4/20
George Caloyannidis letter to Supervisors and attached articles on human-caused wildfire danger:

Dear Napa County Planning Commissioners and Supervisors,

As an adjunct to my May 18 letter to the Supervisors urging additional restrictions for commercial activities in the AW when served by substandard roads, or ones with no secondary escape routes or ones on cull-de-sacs, I attach scientific data confirming that human activity is responsible for 84% of all wild fires -- 87% in Australia.

Yet, the Planning Commission, undeterred by science, keeps approving such winery activities at an unprecedented scale by adding human activity, industrial and visitor in our fire-prone areas.

Equally disturbing is the fact that during your recent joint meeting, this subject was ignored.

I believe this continued practice to be irresponsible if not downright immoral.

George Caloyannidis

Articles on prevalance of human-caused wildfires
George Caloyannidis LTE 5/31/20: Immoral policies in our fire-prone zones

Original post 5/18/20
George Caloyannidis letter to Supervisors on a proposed initiative to codify road access conditions for developments projects in the watershed areas of the county:

George Caloyannidis
2202 Diamond Mountain Road
Calistoga, CA 94515 May 16, 2020

RE: Proposed Firesafe Agricultural Watershed Development Ordinance

To: The Honorable Napa County Supervisors

Dear Supervisors,

My experience with Measure D has been cumbersome and expensive to both myself, to the generous funders who embraced its cause and to the Napa County taxpayers in defense of a subsequent frivolous lawsuit.

I attach the Draft of what at this point is a contemplated Voter Initiative for the year 2022, in the hope of avoiding this route if an Ordinance can accomplish that same objective before the end of May 2021 window of opportunity. Fully aware that the wheels of government are slow to turn, I must stress that once this time window is closed and legal and other expenses have been incurred, such window will close.

I am encouraged by the statements by all of you during the public hearings preceding Measure D arguing that a County Ordinance would have been a preferred route that such an alternative vehicle can be accomplished this time.

On the other hand, I like to remind you that in order to forestall Measure D, Mr. Frank Farella at his own expense through his law firm had submitted the language for an alternative Ordinance only to be asked by Staff to pay $1,700.00 for it just to be considered. This ingratitude caused him to withdraw it resulting in the subsequent expensive process.

It is everyone’s sincere hope that the upcoming fire season will not prove another deadly one but climate change points to the opposite scenario for decades to come.
Much organizational progress has been made since, especially by local citizen efforts in improving communications and obtaining limited public funds to minimize the quantity of fire fuel along some of the overgrown roads in the Agricultural Watershed. But as we have seen, failing communication infrastructure, power shutdowns and an overwhelmed fire personnel during rapidly spreading fire infernos do not guarantee orderly and gradual evacuations under the existing inadequate evacuation infrastructure. Major structural impediments exist. And as we have seen, they have been deadly.

The last Diamond Mountain Firewise Council meeting took place on February 29, 2020 just prior to the COVID-19 lockdown. Following expert presentations by CalFire officials and Wildfire consultant Carol Rice, some 100 attendees were presented the opportunity to fill out a questionnaire as to their desired actions to improve fire safety. They could be roughly sorted into immediate and long-term actions.

The first two immediate ones - removing hazardous vegetation and creating fuel breaks - received 59 combined votes but the next four on the list were long-term actions for improved access and escape routes which received a combined 61 votes.

Access and escape routes are considered by the Diamond Mountain and Kortum Canyon communities as life and death issues during a wildfire. The same concerns have been expressed by similarly situated communities on other western and eastern hills of the county. Inadequate access concerns were also cited by you in granting the recent appeal in the Hard Six Cellars winery application.

It is my sincere hope that the Board of Supervisors will prioritize consideration of this proposal so that our group can gain timely clarity as to its future action.

George Caloyannidis

Napa County Fire-Safe Ag Watershed Development Draft Initiative
Napa County Road and Street Standards (General Minor Road profile on pg.26, Cul-de-sac pg. 27)

Remote Winery Fire Safety Analysis

Bill Hocker - Feb 10, 2020 4:25AM  Share #2073

Residents will make an effort to introduce issues of fire safety at the BOS appeal hearing of Hard Six Cellars on Tues, Feb 12, 2020. The fire safety report is here.

Following the fires of 2017, and the near calamity that befell residents trying to evacuate Soda Canyon Road, and the actual calamity of the blocked highway in Paradise a year later, two winery use permit applications in remote areas of the county have been challenged by neighbors with expert opinion on the fire dangers posed in these areas. The first was made before the presentation to the Planning Commission on the Anthem Winery and was essentially ignored in the discussion. The second was submitted after the Planning Commission approved the Hard Six Cellars project and appellants are trying to get it included in the appeal.

In fact, fire safety reports should be a part of every remote winery application, in the way that water availability and traffic impacts are. Following The Soda Canyon event, it is no longer acceptable for the county fire chief to rubber stamp projects based on project specific mitigations that don't address the dangers beyond the boundaries of the property.

The reports are here:
Anthem Fire Safety Report
Hard Six Cellars Fire Safety Report

Fire in Paradise

Bill Hocker - Oct 29, 2019 11:35AM  Share #2045

PBS Frontline 10/29/19: Fire in Paradise

As the Kincade Fire burns south through Sonoma County and Calistoga remains under an evacuation advisory, this Frontline documentary has concurrently given a minute by minute chronology of the Camp Fire that burned the town of Paradise one year ago. It is a vivid lesson for us all, but especially for the government officials charged with protecting public safety as they continue to encourage the commercial development of the constrained-access, rural areas of the county.

Documentaries on our own Atlas Fire are here

Wine Country Fires 2015-19

Bill Hocker - Oct 1, 2019 4:37AM  Share #2046

In the Wake of the 2019 Kincade fire, the Sonoma Press Democrat published this map of all of the wine country fires that have occurred since 2015. It is worth saving.

Updated satellite image of burn areas

Bill Hocker - Oct 20, 2017 12:01PM  Share #1770

Satellite image of Napa-Sonoma burn areas as of 10/18/17

Also, the Google Earth application currently has clear, and most sobering, images of the fire damage.

Protect your home from fire

Henni Cohen - Nov 12, 2015 9:32AM  Share #1077

The Napa Firewise Foundation received this notice about an upcoming presentation. We, the Soda Canyon Firesafe Council, are forwarding it for your information. This should be an excellent presentation. Please share the information. Sieben is the author of "The Homeowner's Guide to Wildfire Prevention."


Robert Sieben, MD, will present a video presentation of techniques homeowners can use to protect their homes from wildfire at 3-5 p.m. November 14th, at the Montclair branch of the Oakland public library at 1687 Mountain Blvd, off the Thornhill exit from Highway 13.

Don't choose to lose your home to wildfire!

There's a lot you and your neighbors can do, starting right now, to enable your homes to stand on their own when a major windblown wildfire overwhelms firefighters and forces you to evacuate. No one else is going to make your property fire safe for you. You own the fire ignition zone, and therefore you own the fire. Nationwide, when firefighters are called upon to put out fires in the wildland-urban interface, they spend 70 percent of their time doing what property owners should have already done.

Although there have been many fires in the Oakland hills over the past several years, suppressed quickly by the fire department, none has occurred when the dry Mt. Diablo winds were blowing strongly. The inspections themselves are limited in scope-e. g. they do not cover the structure itself, which is far more likely to be ignited by embers than by the fire front. We remain at extreme risk.

You can start your fire prevention right now because the fall rains provide an opportunity to cut back dense shrubs and dead limbs with no danger of ignition. The expected el nino will lead to robust growth of undesirable shrubs and annual grasses that will have to be taken care of early and often.

The costs of suppressing a record number of wildfires has devastated the funds set aside for fire prevention. You can help make up for this by taking responsibility for your own property at your own expense. Learn more at

FC Dwight Good
Fire Marshal
17575 Peak Ave.
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
Office: (408) 310-4654

visit us at:

Napa Firewise Foundation Spring Newsletter

Henni Cohen - Mar 20, 2015 5:28PM  Share #722

Spring 2015 Napa Firewise Newsletter (click here).

Thank you for helping us save money by receiving this online.

The first time you click it may take a moment to load, so be patient.

We appreciate your help. Donations to Napa Firewise are tax deductible.
If you wish to donate, please (Click to DONATE)

-or- send a check to

The Napa Communities Firewise Foundation
P.O. Box 4151
Napa, Ca 94558

Meeting with Fire Chief and Fire Marshall

Diane Shepp - Aug 1, 2014 8:42AM  Share #292

Cindy and I had a moderately productive meeting with the Napa County Fire Chief and the Interim Fire Marshall yesterday. We discussed The Caves, Relic and MPV projects, code/ordinances, emergency evacuation plans (or the lack of them), the constant stream of dump trucks from Relic to Stagecoach the past fews weeks, and the continual parade of parked large vehicles in front of the Firehouse. Cindy has some photos as well. And we asked for a Report of Incidents for the past 5 years for the Soda Canyon/Loma Vista area.

They listened attentively and answered all our questions, t the end of our meeting a call came in about a fire at the top of Atlas Peak Road, at which we adjourned.

I'm looking forward to receiving the statistics on number of incidents.

Onward, Diane

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Diane Shepp
Date: Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 8:22 AM
Subject: Soda Canyon/Loma Vista
To: Scott Upton , Tim Hoyt
Cc: Cynthia Grupp

Fire Chief Upton and Fire Marshall Hoyt,

Cynthia and I appreciate you're taking the time from your busy schedule to meet yesterday afternoon. As we related, there is growing concern among our neighbors regarding the development of tourist oriented wineries on Soda Canyon Road and the potential negative effects they may and have created.

Thank you for listening to our concerns and answering specific questions about the role of the Fire Marshall in the development process of new construction, which County and State codes and ordinances are relevant, and who to speak to regarding an Emergency Evacuation Plan for Soda Canyon Road, weed abatement and abandoned vehicle enforcement.

Your support of the Soda Canyon Volunteer Fire Department and help with posting signs or other measures to ensure that the driveway and parking area are kept clear for emergency vehicle use only, is appreciated. We look forward to receiving the Incident Statistical Report for the Soda Canyon/Loma Vista area for the past five years.

Thank you for helping us keep the Soda Canyon/Loma Vista area as safe as possible.

Best regards,


Soda Canyon Firewise

Henni Cohen - May 5, 2014 9:16AM  Share #160

Soda Canyon/Loma Vista residents are invited to attend the Atlas Peak Firesafe Council meeting on Tuesday May 13. See attached flyer for details.

See what our close neighborhood council has done and is doing. A great opportunity for new ideas for our council and to meet the members of the Atlas Peak council.

We had a terrific turnout on Sunday, April 27, for our BBQ and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Soday Canyon Fire Station. It was fun to meet residents from both ends of Soda Canyon and from Loma Vista.

If you would like to contribute to the 50th anniversary fund for the Fire Station, you can send a contribution to me, Henni Cohen, 1044 Loma Vista Dr., 94558. Checks should be made out to "Soda Canyon Volunteer Fire Department". They are currently raising funds for improvements to the station building and they need 2 twin bed mattresses and a desk.

If you have neighbors who are not on the Call-'em-All list, have them contact Sue Farrell at: 707-246-0547 or

Henni Cohen
Soda Canyon/Loma Vista Firesafe Council

more information is here

Soda Canyon Firewise Meeting

Henni Cohen - Apr 17, 2014 10:43PM  Share #126

Greetings, Soda Canyon/Loma Vista Neighbors:

Just a friendly reminder as a follow up to the flyer we recently mailed you. ​Y​ou and your neighbors​ are invited​ to the Soda Canyon/Loma Vista Firewise Day and Bar-B-Q to be held on Sunday, April 27 from 3:00 - 6:00 PM at the Soda Canyon Volunteer Fire Station No. 13. The Bar-B-Q will be served starting at 4:00 PM. So if you plan to be there for the Bar-B-Q, please RSVP to Penny Mallen at or 255-7556 by Thursday, April 24 and be sure to let her know how many people will be attending.

Please refer to the attached flyer for more details. And let your neighbors know about this important and informative event regarding wildfire safety as our mailing and email lists are not complete. SPREAD THE WORD!!!

​We look forward to seeing you there.

Your neighbors/members of the Soda Canyon/Loma Vista Firesafe Council,

Henni Cohen, Chai​r Rick Thornberry, Napa Firewise Foundation Liaison​ ​​

Soda Canyon/Loma Vista Firesafe Council

Firewise Update

Henni Cohen - Jan 22, 2014 5:58PM  Share #43

Greetings, Soda Canyon/Loma Vista Neighbors

As you may have already noticed, work to continue what we started last year clearing brush, trimming up trees, and separating the tree canopy overhangs (tree "tunnels") on both sides of Soda Canyon Road using the CalFire Delta Cew is underway.

The Soda Canyon (SC) Firewise Council obtained an $8,000 grant from the Napa Communities Fiewise Foundation to finish the work started last year on both Soda Canyon Road and Linda Vista Drive. The Napa County Public Works Department is also graciously providing one of their crews (at no charge to us) to assist in this effort with traffic control, chipping, and hauling, and, we've been promised, a bucket truck and crew to help with the tree trimming.

The Delta Crew started working on Tuesday morning, January 21, and is expected to finish up by Friday, February 7. They will be working from about 10 AM to 3 PM on week days so you can expect some delays if you're driving on these two roads. The work started at 2210 Soda Canyon Road (about 3.4 miles up from the Silverado Trail) on the right hand side of the road and will proceed up to the end of the paved county road and then go back down on the opposite side of the road to where they started just about a half mile south of the SC Fire House.

Then they will proceed to Loma vista Drive and work on both sides of the last half mile of the paved county road starting just past the last 90 degree left turn at the narrowest part of the road. If they have time, they will then go back to Soda Canyon Road to work on thinning out/ breaking up the tree "tunnels" on the first 3 or so miles of the road.

Due to the upcoming Red Flag Warning starting at 10 PM tonight and ending by 3 PM on Thursday, it was decided to not have the Delta Crew work then in order to avoid any possibility of their work starting a wildfire.

The SC Firewise Council would like to thank you all for your patience and understanding while the Delta Crew does its important wildfire mitigation work to create fuel breaks along these roads and make them safer for evacuation during a wildfire emergency.

Please pass this information along to your neighbors, friends, and family in our SC Firewise Community.

P. S. - Hopefully, you've also noted our Firewise road signs letting people know we're involved in improving wildland fire safety in our neighborhood.

Firehouse BBQ

Diane Shepp - May 28, 2011 6:00PM  Share #44

A reminder:

You are invited to a BBQ
hosted by the Soda Canyon Volunteer Fire Department #13
Saturday, June 4, 2011
12 noon - 4pm

at the Fire House
2368 Soda Canyon Road, Napa

Meet your volunteer firefighters and see the progress on Soda Canyon Fire Station renovations.

Thanks again for your support!

Doug Christian
Volunteer Fire Chief
Soda Canyon Volunteer Fire Department #13

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