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Tiny Winery Near Soledad, Homes Near Big Sur Threatened by Two Wildfires

November 08, 1986|Associated Press

SOLEDAD, Calif. — A vintner stood ready Friday to use his wine to keep flames from a 6,000-acre brush fire from spreading to his small winery, while an 850-acre wilderness blaze burning near Big Sur threatened homes.

Winds of 40 m.p.h. were forecast, and firefighters feared the uncontrolled fires would spread to more tinder-dry brush and chaparral.

About 125 firefighters battled the larger blaze near Paraiso Spring, a hot springs resort area with cabins, and the small Smith & Hook Winery about 10 miles west of Soledad.

"If we have to, we'll fight the fire with wine," said a worried Chris Todd as flames crept to within about 1,600 yards of his winery. "There's lots of smoke and the whole winery smells. . . . The wine's safe in stainless steel tanks--I hope. It could come this way."

The small winery with 250 acres of vineyards produces about 10,000 cases of table wine a year.

Rancher Morris C. Casinelli was cited Friday "as the individual we believe to be responsible for this fire for burning without a permit," said Fire Capt. Steve Wood of the California Department of Forestry.

The officer alleged that Casinelli started the fire Thursday as a controlled burn to get rid of unwanted brush, but the fire got out of control.

Casinelli will be arraigned in Salinas Municipal Court on the two misdemeanor counts. He could be billed for the cost of fighting the fire if he is convicted, Wood said.

"If were Casinelli, I would be much more concerned about the bill rather than the misdemeanors," Wood added.

About 125 firefighters from the California Division of Forestry, Soledad, Greenfield and the Forest Service were battling the out-of-control fire, aided by dozens of engines, several air tankers and at least one helicopter.

About 30 miles to the northwest, homes were threatened by the 850-acre fire in the Los Padres National Forest in the Ventana Wilderness Area near the scenic Big Sur coast.

"We're bringing in lots of people and engines," said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kathy Good. "We're expecting winds of 40 m.p.h. . . . . The fire could turn toward Palo Colorado and homes."

The populated portion of Palo Colorado is three miles north of the fire.

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