Alamo Fire Quadruples in Size

Blaze scorches hillside next to vineyard in Santa Barbara County

by Jaime Lewis
wine alamo fire vineyard san luis obispo santa barbara maria
The hills above Bien Nacido Vineyards appeared scorched Sunday, when this photo was taken. Credit: Dayna Hammell

Updated: Tuesday July 11 at 9:20 a.m.

Santa Maria, Calif.—The Alamo fire outside Santa Maria has burned nearly 29,000 acres with 45% containment as of Tuesday morning, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Department officials. More than 2,000 firefighters have been deployed from across California as part of a coordinated attempt to battle the blaze.

Photos of the hillsides behind Bien Nacido Vineyards show scorched earth coming within yards of the vines. After four days during which the fire nearly surrounded the vineyard from the west, north and east, it now appears to be spreading to the south, away from vineyards and wineries and toward Tepusquet Canyon, burning only grass for the time being.


Bien Nacido Vineyards winemaker Trey Fletcher uses water for fire protection. Credit: Dayna Hammell

“The good thing about this situation is that the slight offshore winds kept all smoke and nearly all ash off of our vines and avocados," Bien Nacido vineyard manager Chris Hammell tells Wines & Vines. “We were very, very lucky.”

As of 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, one structure had been destroyed and 133 were threatened, as mandatory evacuations were in effect for Tepusquet Canyon.

Michael Brughelli, director of grape sales at Bien Nacido Vineyards, said in a news release: “We are extremely grateful for the heroic efforts of our team and of the firefighting personnel who helped to protect our vineyards....We are pleased to report that there is no apparent or foreseeable damage to our 2017 vintage.”

The tasting room at Cambria Estate Vineyards and Winery reopened Monday after being shuttered for two days due to the nearby fire. The 200,000-case luxury wine producer is owned by Jackson Family Wines and farms 1,605 acres of vines, according to Wines Vines Analytics. Billowing smoke could be seen from the property throughout the weekend.

Susan Klein-Rothschild, public health deputy director for Santa Barbara County, issued an air-quality warning in response to the Alamo Fire in Santa Maria and the Whittier Fire in the Santa Ynez Valley. Since the Alamo Fire was first reported July 6, three more fires have broken out along California’s Central Coast. The Whittier Fire is 10,823 acres and 25% contained; the Parkfield Fire in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties is 1,816 acres and 100% contained, and the Stone Fire in San Luis Obispo County is 340 acres and 85% contained.

Wines & Vines first reported on the Alamo Fire July 7 (See “Fire Nears Historic Vineyard and Wineries”). For current details about the Alamo Fire, click here.

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