The 1,400-hectare Christie Mountain fire on the Skaha Bench in the Okanagan is worrying winery owners as it rages about a kilometer from vineyards.
"The winery is closed right now," Painted Rock Estate Winery owner John Skinner told BIV during the afternoon on August 19. "There are no staff up there. It's really scary."
Helicopters hovered above as Skinner spoke, and he recalled how yesterday evening a saving grace came in the form of fire retardant.
"Very thankfully, last night, when the [water] bombers were out in the early evening, the last four passes of the day were putting down retardant in a line, and that saved us," he said.
The fire was first disovered yesterday, and it rapidly expanded in size. It descended down the hill in the overnight hours but the fire retardant largely stood as a proverbial line in the sand to keep the blaze from crossing nearer than about one kilometer from Skinner's winery.
"It had broken the line, but not seriously," said Skinner who has owned the winery since 2004, and invested millions of dollars into planting 27 acres of grapes using clones and rootstock sourced and propagated from a Bordeaux nursery. He has since made multiple trips to Europe to promote B.C. wine and his wines are served at some fine-dining restaurants in London, England.
Skinner said that he believes that his grape clusters are safe from settling smoke particles as they are still draped in leaves. The harvest is not slated to take place until October, he added.
"We’re very hopeful," Skinner said. "The fire is on the hill behind us. You stand at Painted Rock and you look at the hill. The smoke isn’t affecting us but its ominously close."