Even as wildfires continue to ravage the Napa-Sonoma wine country, wineries in Santa Barbara County are collecting funds to help fellow vintners as well as other victims of the flames.
Damages are still being assessed, but the latest reports indicate eight wineries sustained some level of damage in Napa County, in Sonoma County five were damaged, one of those completely destroyed, and two were destroyed in Mendocino County.
The human toll is even worse, with at least 29 people reported dead — some sources say 31 — Friday morning as a result of the fires.
Officials said 15 people have died in Sonoma County, eight in Mendocino County, two in Napa County and four in Yuba County.
In Santa Rosa alone, 3,000 homes were destroyed by the swift-moving flames, fire officials said.
On Wednesday, the Buellton-based Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation announced it has set up a website with Direct Relief of Goleta to accept donations to help not only the wineries in the area but their surrounding communities.
By Friday morning, directrelief.org/sbvintners had collected $16,201, with 100 percent of donations earmarked for Direct Relief’s fire emergency response.
“As soon as we were notified of the site, we started letting people know about it,” said Denise Shurtleff, general manager of Cambria Estate Vineyards & Winery in the Santa Maria Valley.
“What we did here at the winery is make up cards to hand out to customers to collect money for the fund,” she said. “There’s been a lot of interest from (other) wineries and within the industry about how they can help.”
Santa Barbara Vintners has a 17-year history of working with Direct Relief, and the association’s biennial wine auction in 2016 raised more than $1 million for the relief organization.
Cambria Estate parent company Jackson Family Wines owns four wineries in Mendocino County, seven in Napa County and 16 in Sonoma County, but so far none of them are on the list released by authorities of those damaged.
The family-owned company, which includes the Brewer-Clifton, Byron and Nielson wineries in Santa Barbara County, and its employees are rallying to help, however.
Shurtleff said employees are donating funds to help the fire victims through the company’s internal program called JFW Cares.
Food banks in the Napa-Sonoma area are asking for food donations, so Cambria is also accepting food donations at its tasting room on Chardonnay Lane.
“Actually, we’ve been working on this all day,” Shurtleff said Thursday afternoon, adding everyone was feeling drained by it all. “I have a son who lives up there and was evacuated — and he’s OK. But this is really touching all of us on a lot of levels.”
Other relief efforts are also underway in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
Farm Supply, which has locations in Buellton, Santa Maria, Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, has been donating feed and related supplies.
Meathead Movers in San Luis Obispo and Fresno is collecting supplies that the company plans to truck up to the Ryse Youth Center in Richmond.
Supplies that will be accepted through 6 p.m. Sunday are new or unused face masks, filters, hygiene products, toothpaste and toothbrushes, toiletries, hand sanitizer, deodorant and adult and child diapers.
Items can be dropped off at Meathead Movers Mini Storage, 3600 S. Higuera St. in San Luis Obispo.