Losses

Since 2017, Sonoma County has suffered terribly as a result of wildfires. The information below is just a quick summary. What about the next five years? How long can we put up with this?

Lives Shattered--Property Lost

"... 10 to 30 percent of wildfire survivors develop diagnosable mental-health conditions, including PTSD and depression. Another 50 percent may suffer from serious subclinical effects that fade with time. Studies have found that substance abuse and domestic violence rise after natural disasters. And while most fire survivors make a full recovery, many require formal treatment."

A Mental-Health Crisis is Burning Across the American West -- Jacob Stern

The Atlantic, July 20, 2020

  • October 2017 - Tubbs Fire and Nuns FIre. Twenty-four Sonoma County residents die, and hundreds are injured. In the county, more than 50,000 acres burn, more than 6,000 structures are destroyed, and more than 100,000 residents evacuate.

  • August-October 2020 - Walbridge Fire and Glass Fire.  About 80,000 acres burn; more than 1000 structures are destroyed; tens of thousands of residents evacuate.

  • Fires in 2017, 2019, and 2020 burned more than 200,000 acres in Sonoma County, almost 20 percent of the county. 
     

  • Over those four years, more than 7,000 structures were destroyed, including more than 3,000 homes.

Agricultural and tourism losses

"Given the extensive national media focus on wine country in recent months, Sonoma County Winegrowers sought accurate data to determine the state of the winegrowing community and the effect on the 2020 harvest season.  ...  Among the key findings: 
 

  • More than 70% of all winegrape growers in Sonoma County anticipate having at least some grapes that will go unpicked or be rejected by wineries due to the wildfires.

  • Grape growers estimate that the total tonnage of unpicked grapes due to marketplace dynamics, COVID’s impact on local wineries and tourism, and the fires will exceed 50,000 tons, this is on a lower than average base of 180,000 tons due to the anticipated lighter crop this season.

  • The estimated crop value for winegrapes that were not harvested equates to approximately $151,657,081."

Wine Industry Advisor, October 20, 2020

  • $150 million loss expected for Sonoma County winegrowers in 2020; could go as high as $500 M for entire North Bay

  • Tourism struggles as potential visitors see fires' devastation of the region. In October 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported that hotel occupancy rates in Sonoma County were nearly 4% below 2018 levels and retail sales figures had dropped about 5%.

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Kristoffer Miller, the tasting room manager at Kendall-Jackson, acknowledges that sending out a positive message has been difficult, especially with PG&E shutting off power during windy days in hopes of preventing another wildfire.

“It does remind people of the fire and it makes people scared, and that is impactful to the business,” he said.

-- Wine country is struggling to attract visitors. Fires and blackouts aren’t helping. Los Angeles TimesOctober 27,2019

Deteriorating quality of life

  • Rolling blackouts by PG&E happen more frequently. That helps prevent fires sparked by electrical equipment, but residents suffer, particularly during heat waves. In addition, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, economists estimate power outages could cost residents billions of dollars.
     

  • Wildfires prompt mass evacuations. The majority of county residents have been required to evacuate at least once - 90,000 fled their homes in 2017, more than 180,000 in 2019 (the largest in Sonoma County history), and tens of thousands in 2020. 

  • Fires destroy landscaping and structures, but even where there are no fires, there is smoke damage. The most common damage is to attic insulation; if it has absorbed enough smoke, it has to be replaced, at a cost of thousands of dollars, paid by home insurers and residents.

  • Insurers have stopped offering home insurance in many areas of California. The California FAIR Plan, the so-called insurer of last resort, increased rates by 15.6% statewide in 2020, hitting rural residents especially hard.