|Mar 10, 2014|
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 the Foss Valley plateau. One house at the end of the road burned. The Hennessey Fire became the largest Napa County has ever experienced. Its impact on Soda Canyon Road is documented here.
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.
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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