Thomas Fire Threatens Santa Barbara Wine Country

Though fire crews have improved containment, new flames move toward populated areas

by Jaime Lewis
wine vineyard fire danger thomas
Fire crews have gained 45% containment of the 270,500-acre Thomas Fire. Photo: CalFire

Santa Barbara, Calif.—The Thomas Fire, which narrowly missed Ojai vineyards and wineries last week, is now the third-largest wildfire in California history, and is moving northwest to threaten urban wineries and tasting rooms near downtown Santa Barbara. Since it began two weeks ago, the Thomas Fire, which is now 40% contained, has burned a total of 270,500 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures.

The fire’s northern edge is burning in the foothills above Montecito, still approximately 35 miles away from the southernmost vineyards of Santa Barbara wine country, but sundowner winds and very low humidity have the potential to make it a threat in the near future.

The Summerland Winery in Summerland, Calif., and Margerum Tasting Room are temporarily closed due to the fire. Meanwhile, Casa Barranca Organic Winery in Ojai and Carr Winery in Santa Barbara reopened after being closed due to the fire.

“As we’ve seen the past two weeks, red flag warnings will remain in effect for Southern California, and they’re even extending upward into parts of Northern California, including the Bay area and the Sierra Nevada,” Capt. Scott McLean said in a video update from the CalFire Information Center.

“Northerly winds will reach between 50 and 30 miles per hour, with gusts ranging between 50-60 miles per hour,” McLean said. “The above-average temperatures, gusting north to northeast winds, and low humidity will cause increased fire danger.”

McLean added that crews will continue “to maintain structure defense operations” and would “scout for and seize any and all opportunities to construct fire lines and contingency lines,” all the while attacking the Thomas Fire where they can.

Saturday “was a very active day here,” Joe Pisano, a volunteer on the Thomas Fire public information line of Santa Barbara County told Wines & Vines on Sunday. “Today is a little better, but the weather is supposed to pick up again on Wednesday. (The fire is) very close to densely populated urban areas, and it’s possible it could move north.”

CalFire regularly updates an incident report about the Thomas Fire here.

Posted on 12.19.2017 - 08:55:15 PST
Actually, more than just the 4 tasting rooms you mentioned were closed last week. Almost every tasting room (and most other businesses) in Santa Barbara City was closed as it was smoky and parts of the city were under evacuation orders, so nobody was going out.
Marc Simon

Posted on 12.19.2017 - 08:58:22 PST
UPDATE: As of 12/18, evacuation orders have been lifted from Summerland, Montecito and downtown SB. The smoke is gone, the skies are blue and most businesses/tasting rooms are back to "normal" business. So everyone come out and support the local businesses that took a huge hit from the fires.
Marc Simon