One the evening of October 8th, as deadly wildfires were breaking out in wine country, Derek Webb was finishing dinner on the back porch of his property, the Triple S Ranch in the Napa Valley.

His neighbor, a volunteer fireman, rushed to his property to alert him to the smell of smoke wafting from the hills nearby.

“We knew my property wasn’t on fire…so then we all raced down the road looking for the fire,” Webb said.

“We’re coming back up the road and then all of a sudden we looking up the hill, and just saw a massive fireball coming up over the mountain.”

Webb, his neighbors and employees spent the next 10 hours, working throughout the night, to put out the flames from the Tubbs wildfire descending on the 12-acre private resort and wedding venue in Calistoga which dates to the 1800s and was once a dairy farm and a restaurant.

One of the toughest challenges Webb and his crew faced while battling the blaze was gusty, fast-moving winds which allowed the wildfires that tore through northern California to spread so quickly, killing dozens and burning more than 220,000 acres.

“(The wind) would come one direction at 60 miles an hour and then turn around and come the other direction at 60 miles an hour,” Webb said. 

Webb had begun clearing dry brush surrounding his ranch years earlier which he referred to as his “first line of defense.” On Sunday night, as firestorms broke out all around his property, tractors and skid steers were used to dig a perimeter around the ranch to try to keep the approaching flames at bay.

“Then we went into full fire suppression mode,” he said. “We used tractors, we used backhoes, we used shovels, we used picks, we used wet blankets, everything you can think of.”

If their efforts to save Triple S Ranch failed, Webb said he and his crew were prepared to jump into the pool which isn’t surrounded by any structures that could go up in flames. Luckily for them, it never came to that.

Saving a Napa Valley Ranch from a Deadly Wildfire 19 October,2017Sheraz Sadiq

  • JH

    Remarkable. Triple S is on Mountain Home Ranch Road, which suffered two fatalities in the fires. My family has been going to Mountain Home Ranch itself for 70 years, and that property has been completely decimated. A devastating loss of place.

Author

Sheraz Sadiq

Sheraz Sadiq is an Emmy Award-winning producer at San Francisco PBS affiliate KQED. In 2012, he received the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism award for a story he produced about the seismic retrofit of the Hetch Hetchy water delivery system which serves the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to producing television content for KQED Science, he has also created online features and written news articles on scientific subjects ranging from astronomy to synthetic biology.

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