NAPA, Calif. (KTVU) - Unlike Sonoma County, which has lost massive housing, Napa County's biggest need right now is short and midterm relief or the legions of folks who are living paycheck to paycheck.
Here, a wide range of workers are desperate for tourists to return. When you're on a low or moderate income, every dollar counts and, right now, those dollars are not coming from tourists.
Thousands of low and moderate income hourly workers in Napa's agriculture, hospitality and retail industries are getting direct financial aid thanks to the generosity of the Napa Valley Community Foundation, vintners, grape growers and many individual donations.
"This fire has really hit them hard, because it's as if a hand came from the sky and turned off our economy for the last two or three weeks," said Terence Mulligan of the Napa Valley Community Foundation.
Recipients are extremely grateful. "It’s very important, I buy most of the food for my daughter and my grandson. I live with them. So, we're all a team and I just want to play my part," said hourly tour business worker Jeanye Thomas.
The direct aid is a Godsend to those who either can’t work or eat, or who have shelter. "In this fire, we've already distributed about three and a half million dollars and three of that has been earmarked for this program that we're calling the Emergency Financial Assistance Program," said Mr. Mulligan.
Case workers love what's happening for the people coming in -- 2500 families so far. "At first, they don't know what to expect, so, they're like anxious, nervous to see if we can help them. But, thank God, all of my co-worker’s cases leave with a smile on their faces because they get to get help with the most important thing which is the rent," said case worker Maria Martinez.
This same kind of response was given during the Napa earthquake. "This is really a story of a whole community coming together and this is everybody," said Molly Moran Williams of the Napa Valley Grape Growers.
Beyond that, folks here are already thinking about preparing for the next fires with more and better fire breaks beyond the vineyards themselves, such as wide wildlife trails and assisting first responders.
"We're having serious conversations about programming, educational programming, for this year on how we can educate on best practices in providing water to air crews to help put out fires in hard to defend areas," said Moran Williams.
Now, says Michael Honing of Honig Vineyards and Winery, only one thing is missing. “I think we're in full recovery mode. We just haven't seen the guest return just yet. We're spending a lot of time and effort notifying people not only in the Bay Area, but nationally. Come back to Napa. We'd love you to come visit.," says vintner Honig.
This is Wine Country's peak or the peak season, making this the most inopportune time for tourists to be holding back.