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Glass Fire: Wildfires Have Some Angwin Townsfolk Wanting To Leave Wine Country

ANGWIN (KPIX) - Despite how much wine country residents love where they live, many are beginning to have doubts. When the wine country fires happened in 2017, residents were shocked and traumatized. Since then, wildfire has become almost a yearly occurrence.

Now, even those who love living in the area are wondering if it's time to call it quits.

As of early Tuesday morning, Angwin was still a ghost town as an evacuation order remained in place. The fire stood at 66,840 acres with 41 percent containment. It has destroyed more than 550 homes in Napa and Sonoma counties.

Angwin is situated in the forests of northern Napa County. The 3,000 residents here have been evacuated so many times that some are beginning to question if they should be living here at all.

The small community has so far been saved from the flames but the threat is becoming commonplace. Nina Elliott, now living at a Napa hotel, has had to flee her home four times in the last five years. She says that's no way to live and it doesn't look like things are going to change.

"It's just hotter, it's drier, less rain and more volatile," she said. "And we almost feel it's 'when' Angwin is going to burn, not 'if' anymore."

Those living in wine country used to love the arrival of Fall and the excitement of the harvest.

"And now, it's more dread than anything else and it's worrisome," said evacuee Curtis Sosna.

"I love Napa! I love going wine tasting," said Elliot. "I just loved everything about it and now, I can't exactly say the same, you know? I hope they can go back to it but I don't know…I don't know if it will ever be normal."

"It is going to keep happening," said Angwin evacuee Vesna Sherman. "I don't see how it wouldn't."

But Chris Carmichael sees it differently. He moved to Angwin in the 1990s from North Carolina, and says there is risk anywhere you live.

"I love California," he said. "Yeah, it's a tinderbox, it burns. But the Southeast has hurricanes, tornadoes."

So what keeps people here after so many fires? Some say it's the spirit of the community.

V. Sattui Winery has almost no customers these days, what with smoke and road closures, not to mention COVID-19. So instead, they've been offering free food to first responders and evacuees, including Brian Yates whose home burned down a week ago.

"It reinforces your faith in community and that there's support and we'll get through this together," Yates said. "We'll try and rebuild, we'll try and make it better. And I hope that's what happens."

Perhaps it's karma, but on Tuesday, V.Sattui's President, Tom Davies says the winery had its single largest day of online sales, 450 cases of wine, to people offering support.

"And to get that number of sales in one day…it was just nuts," Davies said. "It felt really good, given everything we've been going through."

Angwin was evacuated twice in the last month, first for the lightning-caused LNU Complex Fire and now for the Glass Fire. The town is still under an evacuation order. But the danger hasn't left…some think it never will. So, Nina is looking into moving and Chris says he'll take his chances. Meanwhile, the beauty that drew people here is still around…it just seems like the price for enjoying it has gone way up.

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