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California wildfires hit Treasury Wines

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Deadly wildfires raging across northern California have caused what Treasury Wine Estates calls "limited damage" to its assets in the region.

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Treasury owns and operates about 3,750 planted hectares of vineyards in the US, including in the fire-hit Sonoma County and Napa Valley. In Australia, its brands include Penfolds, Lindemans and Wolf Blass.

The company said today most of its vineyards and wineries were not directly in fire zones at present.

“At this stage, there is limited damage to TWE’s infrastructures and sites, however the fires are ongoing, and TWE still has limited access to all of its different assets,” the company said in a statement to the ASX.

TWE said its focus was ensuring that all employees were safe.

TWE’s assets in the area include vineyards, wineries, cellar door facilities and packaging operations linked to TWE’s US labels Sterling, Beringer, Stag’s Leap, Chateau St. Jean, and Beaulieu Vineyard.

TWE shares were 21.5 cents, or 1.51 per cent, lower at $13.985 at 1052 AEDT.

As of this morning (SA time), the wildfires in California wine country had destroyed at least 1500 homes and businesses and sent thousands fleeing as flames raged unchecked through high-end resorts, grocery stores and tree-lined neighbourhoods.

Officials say at least seven more people have died, bringing the total number of fatalities to 10.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office tweeted Monday that seven fire-related deaths were reported from fires there.

California fire officials reported earlier that two people died in Napa County and one died in Mendocino County.

The flames were burning “at explosive rates” because of 50mph winds, said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Fourteen large fires were burning, spread over a 200-mile region north of San Francisco from Napa in the south to Redding in the north.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

The ferocity of the flames forced authorities to focus primarily on getting people out safely, even if it meant abandoning structures to the fire.

Some of the largest blazes were in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world.

They sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 100 kilometres away. What caused the blazes was not known.

Fires also burned in Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties – all north of the state capital.

The fires damaged the Silverado Resort in Napa and a Hilton hotel in Santa Rosa, the largest city in the fire area, with a population of about 175,000.

Kim Hoe, a 33-year-old tech worker from Penang, Malaysia, was staying at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, which was gutted by flames.

He said the power went out around 1am, and he and his colleagues started packing up when someone knocked on the door and told them to run.

“We just had to run and run. It was full of smoke. We could barely breathe. It was dangerous,” Hoe said.

They returned in the morning to find the hotel had been destroyed along with most of their possessions.

Mike Turpen, 38, was at a bar in Glen Ellen early Monday when a stranger wearing a smoke mask ran in and yelled that there was a fire. Turpen raced home through flames in his Ford F-250.

“It was like Armageddon was on,” Turpen said. “Every branch of every tree was on fire.”

He woke later to find all his neighbours’ homes on fire, but stayed behind to try to defend his own rental home.

By late morning, Turpen, wearing shorts, a kerchief mask and goggles, was the last man standing for miles along one abandoned road. His yard and all those around him were burned, smoking and still flaming in a few spots. But his home was still standing.

– AP/AAP

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