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Why some Northern California vineyards survived the fires




NAPA, CA - OCTOBER 10:  A fire breaks out in the hills above a vineyard at the Atlas Fire on October 10, 2017 in Napa, California.  Fifteen people have died in wildfires that have burned tens of thousands of acres and destroyed over 2,000 homes and businesses in several Northen California counties.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - OCTOBER 10: A fire breaks out in the hills above a vineyard at the Atlas Fire on October 10, 2017 in Napa, California. Fifteen people have died in wildfires that have burned tens of thousands of acres and destroyed over 2,000 homes and businesses in several Northen California counties. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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California is still burning. According to CalFire, 23 people have been killed and 20,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate since Wednesday. More than 170,000 acres have burned throughout the state.

The Tubbs fire, in both Napa and Sonoma counties, is now the fifth deadliest in California history.

It goes without saying: This week's wildfires have devastated California's wine country up north.

"As you may well know, much of the valley has been without cellphone service and it’s been very difficult to get ahold of people," said Cate Conniff, communications manager for Napa Valley Vintners.

The not-for-profit group represents hundreds of vineyards in the area. Conniff said that they are most concerned with ensuring the safety of their staff and clients.

"This is still a very critical situation," Conniff said.

While it's still too early to tell the full extent of the damage, several vineyards and the personal homes of winemakers have been destroyed.

"The fire touched us extremely closely. It came on our property," said Dan De Polo, president of Darioush Winery in Napa. But De Polo was fortunate compared to his counterparts that were nearby. "Our winery did not burn down. Of course, our neighbors have been completely burned out, unfortunately."

De Polo believes that being on a vineyard, with plants that are not as dry and brittle, made the difference in his winery's security.

"The vineyard actually saved us," De Polo said. "We're a 35-acre estate here with the winery. We're surrounded by vineyards on three sides. And we only had landscape fire because the ashes were literally being blown onto our property. This is basically a grass fire in our area. Vineyards are not really a classically designed fire prone area like the forest. "

A list of damaged and destroyed vineyards can be found on the San Jose Mercury News.

To hear more about the wildfire's effects on the California wine country, click the blue player above.