The small town of Calistoga came under a total evacuation order as the wildfires threatened to engulf the town. Calistoga, at the northern end of the Napa Valley, is home to some particularly eccentric beauties: A magnificent petrified forest, some amazing hot springs, and a geyser are among its famous attractions. It’s also home to art galleries, hiking and cycling trails through beautiful oak woodlands, and over 50 wineries, most of which are small and wonderful boutique spots; this town isn’t the mass-market type. It’s old, quirky, out of the way and incredibly beautiful, and when I thought about the many irreplaceable vintage treasures in the fire’s path I couldn’t help worrying about my friends at Tank Garage and the amazing 1930s service station they converted into a tasting room.
Driving up Petrified Road yesterday, all looked amazingly calm. Vineyards were starting to “flame” in the usual way of turning brilliant gold, red and purple as the leaves went dormant on the vines. Signs everywhere thanked fire crews and first responders, wineries were open for business as the late afternoon sun lit Mt. Saint Helena. It seemed so peaceful. Then I came around a bend in the narrow road and there it was. The land to one side was untouched; to the other, it was torched, covered in a layer of fire retardant, and stinking of chemicals and smoke. Melted cars, trees twisted and blackened to the ground, gaping holes where homes and farms had been. Luckily, my destination (Tank Garage) was still standing and the people inside were tired but unhurt, and more than ready for a drink.
Here, we talk with Ed Feuchuk, one of the employees at Tank Garage, about his experience during and after the fires.
Paste: What’s your current status?
Ed Feuchuk: Safe and exhausted. Our extended team has been significantly affected. Some people lost their homes, our two owners bravely, and single-handedly, fought fires threatening their own homes and wineries and have been without power and water for much of the past 10 days. All of our facilities were narrowly saved and, thankfully, most of our fruit had been brought in already and is unharmed. But we did lose some fruit and vineyards and are still assessing the damage.
Paste: What is a “normal” day for you right now? “Too freaking busy to talk to you, lady” is acceptable!
EF: It’s just constant triage. We’re still trying to repair our wineries while simultaneously attempting to get our businesses back up and running. All this while the fires continue to burn and members of our community need help. It’s just a flurry of doing what you can and putting out small fires…sometimes literally.
Paste: What are you looking at differently in light of this incredibly destructive event?
EF: Honestly, I haven’t really had the opportunity to reflect on this whole thing, I’ve just been trying to make myself useful. But initially, I feel very, very fortunate. Some people lost their loved ones, many people lost their homes and businesses, and I can’t fathom the amount of pain they are feeling right now. It’s profoundly harrowing and humbling to be in a position to even send an email.
Paste: Anything you’d like people outside the area to know?
EF: We need people to come back to Napa Valley, desperately. Napa Valley is hurting, but it is not decimated. All of the world-class wineries, restaurants, resorts and natural beauty are still intact, you need to get your asses out here soon and often. We’ll have a glass ready for you.