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Naked Wines donates over $127,000 to KFA

Ghisla and Molesworth returned to St. Helena Road for a few hours the next day, but eventually had to quit the mountain. Platt and Engineer (driver) Japen Soto and John Bragg took the Type 3 engine, a four-wheel drive designed for fighting wildfires, up to the same general area, responding to a call for five more engines.

“We met with the Strike Team Leader,” Platt said. “Then we spent the next 36 hours up there, primarily tasked with structure defense.”

“One of the biggest challenges we had was the way the fire was coming at us, through dense trees and brush that canopied over us,” Platt said. “As frustrating as is for a firefighter to create a buffer for the homeowner, it felt a little bit futile … you hoped somehow it could be stopped, but even after doing the best we could to prep a lot of these homes, it was probably going to be … difficult.” Wildfire work schedules call for 36 hours on followed by 24 hours off. During their shifts, crews spent a lot of time just keeping the roads clear, cutting up fallen trees and pushing the debris off the road.

A sheriff pulled up and asked Platt’s crew to help homeowners desperately trying to save their houses. “A pump or generator they were using burned out,” Platt said, “so we went. We were able to save four homes that were being threatened. That was pretty cool.”

Early on Sept. 29, they were working on the Napa County side of Tarwater Road when they were ordered off the mountain again when the winds started picking up. On the way down, they encountered two civilians walking down the road.

“We picked them up,” Platt said. “One had a head injury and Japen began triage in the back of the engine.” Soto is an EMT and, after assessing the injury, began full treatment. Eventually, the refugees were taken to the base camp at Calistoga Road and Highway 12 where an ambulance was waiting for the injured walker.

After Tuesday, most of Kenwood FPD’s work was directed at fires along Highway 12 from Los Alamos to Pythian Road that were threatening Oakmont and the outskirts of Kenwood.

Long time Kenwood volunteer Matt Clawson, born and raised in that stretch of Highway 12 near Melita Road, was patrolling between Adobe Canyon Road and Oakmont Drive with Jason Kunde. “We were putting out spot fires in a kind of bump and run,” Clawson said.“ The fire was heading for the highway by the children’s home (at Pythian), coming along a drainage ditch from the mountain,” Clawson said. “Until the fire overwhelmed us at Highway 12 and Silver Shoon Ranch. By then, Santa Rosa engines were heading toward Kenwood.”

Clawson said what everyone in the fire district knows: “We need more volunteers.” Assistant Administrative Chief Ben Gulson used to train the district’s volunteers and urges anyone who can make the time for the rigorous training to step forward and join the program. While more professionals are being hired, they cannot replace the core cadre of volunteers who make the job possible.

Platt called out community members who stepped up.

“Palooza supported us every day with lunches and food. Others brought in meals ready to go. Joe and Denise Benguerel were instrumental in managing the feeding of all the firefighters coming in and out of the station,” he said. “And it is worth noting the Fire Explorers — Tyler Bellach and Ethan Platt — who spent a tremendous amount of time at the station, keeping it clean and helping with the feeding. There was an incredible show of support from everyone.”

A brief presentation ceremony at St. Anne’s Crossing Winery in Kenwood on Thursday, Nov. 5, barely captured the importance of the occasion, with parent Nakedwines. com CEO Nick Devlin on hand to donate $127,310 to the Kenwood Firefighter’s Association, money raised through the sales of a special, blended wine from the 2017 vintage.

“It started back in 2017,” Devlin said later. “Our winery was evacuated for 13 days and we were very fortunate. We felt a debt to all the firefighters out there working so hard. People lost jobs and we wondered what we could do to help.”

The first round of crowd funded donations raised over $800,000 that was given to organizations in Napa and Sonoma. The money helped restore a school for autistic children, and provided food, supplies and cash assistance to fire victims.

This year’s money went directly to Kenwood firefighters and will be used to overhaul the district’s 20-year-old water tender, which just recently provided tremendous support fighting the Glass Fire.

“In 2018 we decided to support Kenwood Volunteer Firefighters Association with our 2017 vintage of Cellar Cru American Red Blend.” Over 63,000 bottles of that wine were sold for $10.99 a bottle, Devlin said, with $2 of each sale going to the donation. “The 2019 bottling will raise more money,” Devlin ventured.