Unforgiving wildfires affect vineyard workers and owners

first_imgSONOMA, Calif. (AP) — When the wildfires ignited, vineyard workers stopped picking grapes and fled for their lives. Some vineyard owners decided to stay and fight back, spending days digging firebreaks and sleeping among their vines for safety.As the danger drew closer, grape pickers spread word of the threat and helped neighbors pack their homes. The owner of an elite golf resort abandoned his home to try to save his golf course.The deadliest and most destructive wildfires in California history imperiled both the low-wage workers who harvest the nation’s most valuable wine grapes and the wealthy entrepreneurs who employ them. Vintners were suddenly plunged into the same desperate struggle as their laborers, with everyone fighting to preserve the things most precious to them — families, belongings and businesses.On the public beach campgrounds where hundreds of evacuees escaped the flames, the affluent slept alongside migrant workers and combed through donated supplies.“We had people in Mercedes and Lexuses showing up” with soot on their faces after losing everything, said Patty Ginochio, a volunteer who helped feed, house and clothe evacuees. Even some of the well-off “had nothing but the clothes on their back. It’s humbling.”If anything, the fires seemed to target the affluent, blackening leafy suburban developments and hilltop estates more than the flatlands where many farm workers and middle-class families live.last_img