By Anna Maria Barry-Jester, California Healthline, October 28, 2019
Farm laborers in yellow safety vests walked through neatly arranged rows of grapes Friday, harvesting the last of the deep purple bundles that hung from the vines, even as the sky behind them was dark with soot.
Over the hill just behind them, firetrucks and first responders raced back and forth from a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection staging area, working to contain a wildfire raging through the rugged hills and canyons in northeastern Sonoma County. As of Sunday, more than 3,000 firefighters were battling the blaze, and a broad swath of the county — more than 180,000 residents from mountain to coast — was under evacuation orders as Northern California endured a historic windstorm that was fueling the flames.
For farmworkers in Sonoma County’s fabled wine country, the Kincade Fire poses a daunting set of risks. October marks not only fire season in California, but also the peak of the grape harvest. In areas not imminently threatened, some workers labored through the heat and dangerous smoke to retrieve some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grapes that had yet to be harvested. As the fire continues to spread, many now are finding that their work — and paychecks — have been suspended.