It was a particularly breezy Sunday and we were enjoying a day at the Safeway Open golf tournament at Silverado Resort and Spa. We only noted the strong breeze that turned into a wind because we wondered how it was affecting golf play. No one had any idea that a few short hours later the entire landscape of our lives – both literal and figurative – would be inexorably altered and that these hours were the first of the longest week many of us could recall.
I don’t even remember how I learned about the first flames threatening our community. Did I see it on the news? Did a friend call to alert me? Was it a text from Nixle? The 10 pm news turned into 2 am updates, which turned into 6:30 am reports and the entire night became a sleepless, tense, breathless blur broken up by the sounds of the wind, the television, and frequent phone calls to friends and family as we wondered, we paced, and we waited for information.
The ensuing days revealed devastation and destruction that seemed unimaginable prior to the fires. The days also revealed, time and again, the best of us.
Our hearts go out to those who lost something in the fires – be it a physical structure or a sense of security. We hope that the passage of time will help you rebuild and restore. Our gratitude and appreciation know no bounds when it comes to our first responders – local heroes and those who came from other regions, states, and countries to join us in our fight to save this place and help us put the pieces back together.
We continue to show the strength that has become our hallmark. The resiliency, resolve, and heart that makes Napa County such a special place to call home is what stays with us and is what shines brighter than any flame.
Take care, and stay safe.
Until next time,
CEO, Sustainable Napa County
Your Home and Business after the Wildfires
Many of you are wondering what you could have done – and what you should do now – to keep smoke out of your house and get rid of the smoke smell that now lingers. What do you do if the gas was turned off, or your power has now been restored? If your house was directly adjacent to a fire area or has actual smoke damage, you should hire professional cleaners and/or a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioner (HVAC) maintenance company perform the following tasks. Otherwise, most of these are things you can do yourself.
1. If you had your electricity turned off:
- Check all your timer controlled devices – clocks, programmed thermostats, fire and burglar alarm systems, landscaping controls, pool and spa timers, indoor or outdoor lighting systems, solar panel inventor settings and don’t forget the dreaded microwave clock!
- You may have to check day and time settings on your computers, handheld devices, and data backup sources. Some older units do not automatically reset themselves.
- Some other less common things to check are – water recirculation pumps and timers, well pumps and tank controls, sump pump controls, solar panel invertor settings, and some garage door openers. And in Napa Valley, don’t forget the settings on your wine cellar/refrigerator!
- Once appliances are running, listen to them to make sure there aren't any unusual noises and to see if they are running too long. If so, you may need to call an appliance repair person.
2. If your gas was turned off, contact PG&E and they will come out to inspect and restart your gas appliances at no cost. Typical gas appliances in the home include stoves, ovens, water heaters, and furnaces.
3. Replace air conditioning/furnace filters. Your furnace is usually located in a closet on the side of your house or in a closet in a central hallway.
4. Many people are wondering why they still smell smoke inside their home even with all the windows and doors closed. All California homes are prone to air leakage from the outside to some extent. The average Napa County home has so many leaks in it, it is comparable to having a two-by-two-foot window open all the time.
- Most people don’t realize that their air conditioner or furnace does not bring in outside air; it only recirculates the air already inside the house. Very few homes in Napa County have systems that use outside air.
- Read your owner’s manual for the correct style and size of air filter for your unit and instructions on how to replace the filter. If you can’t find the manual, make sure to replace with the same style and size filter currently installed. You can also ask for help at your local home improvement store.
- Do not upgrade to higher filtration filters unless you verify in the owner’s manual that the unit can operate with that filter type. Many “allergen” pleated filters sound good, but are too thick to allow enough air to pass through them, especially in older air conditioning/furnace units, and you can actually damage your equipment.
- Once you have installed new filters, run your air conditioner/furnace on “fan only” mode to filter the indoor rooms.
- You may want to change filters once a month for the next few months, depending on the amount of smoke you had inside your house.
Here are some of the very common household air leaks:
With doors and windows closed, you still need to run kitchen stove and bathroom exhaust fans as needed. But do not run a dryer that is inside your house, since it is exhausting a large amount of air – that means it is pulling that smoky air in from the outside.
- Cracks in exterior walls
- Recessed light fixtures
- Wood shrinkage over time, most wood wall studs can shrink over a ¼” in size
- Leaking air ducts
- Doors and windows and the frames around them
- Chimney vents that are open.
5. Also if you have an outside air conditioning condenser coil (the grey box with the fan on top, usually located on the side of your house), it may be clogged with dust or ash. The metal fins can be washed down from the outside with a hose and a plastic bristle brush. Be careful not to bend the metal fins while cleaning the unit.
6. Some other items that can harbor the “smoke” smell in and around your home.
BUSINESS OWNERS: Many business owners are wondering what they should be doing to get their business up and running after the wildfires in Napa County. CLICK HERE for a checklist created specifically for businesses.
- Carpets, furniture, and drapes may have to be professionally cleaned to remove all smoke odors
- Clothes, wash as needed
- Ash that accumulates on patios and decks, wash down with water, avoid sweeping unless wearing a certified compliant dust mask
- Ash that has settled on landscaping, wash off with water as well
For more information, visit PG&E's website and click on Wildfire Safety on the right-hand side where you will see the links for electric and gas restoration.
Sustainable Napa County
CHECK OUT THESE RESOURCES TO LEARN MORE
Air quality remains poor throughout Napa County, and it is recommended that you wear an N95 mask when outdoors. Additionally, check this website for daily air auality Index figures/ratings. Simply input your zip code. CLICK HERE
How to Use an N95 Mask
A disposable N95 mask (respirator) is a safety device that covers the nose and mouth and helps protect the wearer from breathing in some hazardous substances. An N95 mask protects you from breathing in small particles in the air such as dust and mold. CLICK HERE
Ash and Burn Debris Clean-up Removal
Older building materials may contain asbestos and lead. Household hazardous waste such as gasoline, cleaning products, pesticides, and other chemicals may have been stored in homes, garages, or sheds that burned in the fire. These materials can become concentrated in ash and soil following a fire. It is important not to expose yourself, your family or others to any of these materials. Exposures can occur by sifting through ash and debris, causing ash to become airborne and inhaled or ingested. CLICK HERE
Agricultural Property Access Requirements
Due to the presence of mandatory evacuation areas established related to the Napa County wildfires, growers, winery personnel, ranchers, and other agricultural-related businesses will need prior approval from Incident Command personnel to conduct harvest or other ag activities within these areas. The Napa County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office is currently fielding requests from businesses requesting access into restricted areas. CLICK HERE
Fire Recovery Guide
For those who have been affected by the fires, Congressman Mike Thompson has created a fire recovery guide to help individuals, families, and buisnesses navigate the resources such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that may be available to them. CLICK HERE
October is Children's Health Month
Learn how you can help protect children from environmental risks at home, at school, and in your community. CLICK HERE
Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund
The Napa Valley Community Foundation (NVCF) has mobilized its Disaster Relief Fund. One hundred percent of the donations go to local nonprofits that help fire victims with temporary shelter, meals, medical care, child care, animal care, and mental health services. If you want to make a donation, CLICK HERE.
FEMA Application for Disaster Relief
California Assistance and Services for Disaster Recovery
Benefits.gov Disaster Relief Resource
Wednesday, October 18, 7-8 pm
Climate Change: Taking it Local
Napa County Library, Napa
Tuesday, October 24, 5-8 pm
Halloween Costume Exchange
Oxbow Public Market
Saturday, October 28, 10 am-2 pm
Got drugs? True in your unused or expired medication
Kaiser Permanente Medical Offices, Napa
Click here for more details on this event and others.