Wind-whipped wildfires ripped across Northern California on Monday, damaging a number of restaurants, wineries and hotels, and forcing many businesses to close as thousands of residents evacuated.
At least 11 people were dead and more than 100 missing, according to reports, but phone lines have been down in the region, making it difficult for people to keep in touch amid a hurried evacuation, as an estimated 20,000 residents fled their homes. Eight counties have been impacted, including Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Yuba, Nevada, Calaveras and Butte.
The fires continued to rage out of control on Tuesday morning.
Thousands of acres of land have burned across one of the richest regions for wine production in the U.S. Some reports indicated the disaster could have lasting impact on the wine industry. Even vineyards that are not burned could see unharvested grapes tainted by heavy smoke.
The cause of the fires has not yet been determined. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that an estimated 1,500 homes and businesses have burned across 70,000 acres.
In Sonoma County, The Press Democrat reported that Willi’s Wine Bar, Sweet T’s and Cricklewood restaurants were destroyed, along with a McDonald’s location, an Arby’s and an Applebee’s.
The three chain restaurants were all in the same complex, said Greg Flynn, chair and CEO of Flynn Restaurant Group, one of the largest franchisees of the Applebee’s, Panera Bread and Taco Bell brands.
The group so far has lost only the Santa Rosa Applebee’s location, though Flynn said many of his roughly 500 employees in Sonoma and Napa counties working in the group’s other restaurants throughout the region have seen damage to their homes or have been evacuated.
But Flynn said the group operates a Family Fund with contributions from employees that will help support those in need.
“It exists to help our own in times of trouble,” he said. “We’ve done it multiple times when storms or floods hit. This is another time. It’s there to tide people over while they’re displaced or out of their homes.”
Flynn spoke while he was in a plane flying over the fires, which he said were dangerously close to a home he has in the area. “It scares the bejesus out of me,” he said. “This fire is burning hot.”
Arby’s officials confirmed that the Arby’s was owned by franchise operator John Eng. McDonald’s did not immediately respond to requests for information.
Jaime Smallbone, a spokesperson for the Stark Reality Restaurants and parent to Willi’s Wine Bar, confirmed the report and said all of the group’s restaurants were closed Monday as owners Mark and Terri Stark “turn their focus on the care and comfort of their staff and community.”
The group also operates the Bird & The Bottle, Monti’s Rotisserie and Stark’s Steak & Seafood in Santa Rosa, as well as Willi’s Seafood and Bravas Bar de Tapas in Healdsburg.
On the website for the Fountaingrove Inn, officials posted a notice saying both the hotel and The Steakhouse @Equus fell victim to the fire.
“At this time, we are unable to conduct business in any capacity,” wrote Justin Hayman, general manager. “As we have more information, we will post updates. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic fire.”
Social media accounts indicated several wineries were burned, including Stag’s Leap in Napa, as well as Signorello Estates and William Hill Estate Winery.
Reports also indicated the Kenwood and Kunde vineyards were in danger, as was B.R. Cohn and Benziger.
Power outages as a result of the fires were plaguing restaurants throughout the Napa Valley. Mobile phone service was also down in several areas.
Thomas Keller’s famed restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville said in a Facebook post that it was closed Monday due to power outages.
The Las Alcobas Hotel, which is home to chef/restaurateur Chris Cosentino’s recently opened restaurant Acacia House, had a similar post on its website saying the restaurant is closed until further notice.
Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena was closed Monday because of the power outage, but a location in downtown Napa remained open.
The Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus in St. Helena also experienced some power and phone outages on Monday. Students and staff were safe as of Monday afternoon, but the campus closed on Tuesday, as did the affiliated restaurant CIA at Copia in Napa, said Jeff Levine, the CIA’s communications manager.
Guests and staff at The Silverado Resort & Spa near Napa were evacuated safely, but social media reports indicated structures along the resort’s golf course had burned.
Julie Maurer, a spokesperson for the Silverado, said the resort structures are intact, but there has been some fire damage on the property, including quite a few homes in the area that burnt to the ground.
“Winds are calm now, so that is a great help to firefighters,” she said in an email.
Separately, another fire in Southern California swept through the Anaheim Hills in Orange County, burning at least 24 structures over more than 7,500 acres.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout
Update: Oct. 10, 2017 This story was updated with additional information.