Senior community in Sonoma County worries neighboring vineyard a fire threat

A small Sonoma County community is battling an international wine consortium over a small tract of land overgrown with high weeds. 

The many senior citizens that live in Creekside Village, just outside the town of Sonoma, don't think the neighboring vineyard is very neighborly when it comes to clearing dry grasses. 

"This year, they've done the minimum that the law allows which is ten feet," said homeowner Bob Mandell. 

Residents say that in previous years the grass was moved or plowed under. This year, they've done the bare minimum. 

The residents are afraid that if that area catches fire in high winds, flames could spread to their homes and destroy their neighborhood. 

"You have in the afternoon on many days, the winds come up at 10 to 30 mph, which, if there were embers or a small fire started it would fuel it and come right here right into the complex of 313 senior homes," said Mandell. 

"And it's all seniors, they're gonna have a tough, time getting out," said Evelyne Mandell.

Beth Ann Farris' house sits alongside the wide swath of high and dry grass that she wants to be removed after what she experienced during previous wildfires. 

"We had embers out here from the fires that we had earlier on, on the east side of town," said Farris.

Residents have written to the city, county and Cal Fire fire marshals as well as supervisors and elected state officials. They say a letter written to the vineyard's owner, Winery Etude of Napa and Treasury Wine Estates of Australia, from the Homeowner Association's lawyer has gone unanswered. 

"We offered to pay for the clear-cutting. They refused saying it's too much of a liability for the vineyard if someone got hurt," said Mandell. 

"My common sense tells me that somebody at the vineyard does not have common sense," Farris added.

A media representative for the vineyard told KTVU via email that the vineyard is compliant with county and state fire regulations to ensure that the property is safe.

They said they will monitor and reduce grass and debris as they deem appropriate.