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Buellton vineyard weathers wildfire after weathering COVID-19 shutdown

Airdrop during Drum Fire
Scott Sheahen / KEYT

BUELLTON, Calif. -- Pence Vineyards and Winery is a small, family-owned vineyard that sits on over 50 acres. They specialize in pinot noir, syrah, gamay and chardonnay wines.

Roaring flames and a massive firefighting operation; these were not the sights or sounds Pence Winery and Vineyard expected on Sunday afternoon.

Blair Pence, who is the co-owner of Pence Winery & Vineyard, said, "And we could see it was coming our direction. And it was just the question is was it going to break north or south or what." 

Pence Winery had just popped the cork out to reopen tastings on their vineyard after a two and a half month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that afternoon he had to stop tastings and evacuate everyone.

"Life doesn't always, sometimes it throws you a curveball," said Pence. "And that's what happened. But I think I was really too busy just trying to think, what do I got to do here to make sure this place stays safe." 

The Drum Fire burn over 600 acres across more than 7 hillsides. It got so close that it scorched some of the vines on the edge of the vineyard. While losing some Sunday sales due to the evacuation was bad, losing the whole vineyard that could have been worse.

"This is it," said Pence. "If we lose this we lose a vintage. It would have been a big deal."

More than 200 firefighters from 11 difference agencies responded to put out the fire. However a mandatory evacuation order closed parts of Highway 246 and forced 30 people to leave Pence Vineyards and Winery.

Spokeman for Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Mike Eliason, said, "We love vineyards because you don't see vineyards burn. There might be a little bit of damage on the interface between the open land and the vineyards, but that's a great greenbelt and that helped slow the fires progress."

Because Pence Vineyard was fire ready, they're only anticipating losing around 100 trees. Workers are washing the grapes and they don't expect a major impact on wine production. You can find their wine here.

Business Matters / Coronavirus / Fire / Health / Lifestyle / Santa Barbara- S County / Santa Maria - North County

Scott Sheahen

Scott Sheahen is a reporter at KEYT | KCOY | KKFX.