Bushfire Scorches Adelaide Hills

On December 20, what has become known as the Cudlee Creek Bushfire devastated northern portions of the Adelaide Hills in Australia. Following on weeks of dry weather, the fire—said to have been ignited by a downed powerline—spread rapidly, fueled by dry brush and high winds.

The Adelaide Hills, located just east of the city, is home to numerous wineries and orchards, many of which suffered devastating losses. The Advertiser, Adelaide’s local newspaper, is reporting 87 homes destroyed, along with nearly 500 other buildings and one fatality. Without the heroic efforts of South Australia’s Country Fire Service (CFS), the damage could have been much worse. The historic town of Lobethal was almost encircled by the devastation (see map below).

CFS map showing the extent of the fire damage.

Reports are that 1,100 hectares (approximately one-third) of the region’s vineyards have been affected, with some wineries completely wiped out. Tilbrook Estate and Vinteloper are said to have lost everything. Glam Adelaide has a partial list of affected wineries

In addition to the wineries on this list, many independent vineyards suffered damage. The Henschke family reports that their Lenswood vineyard sustained “significant” damage, some of which can be seen in a Facebook video posted by Riposte (Tim Knappstein’s wine label).

On Christmas Eve, CFS officials warned people to avoid the affected areas. There are pockets still smoldering, and with more hot, dry days in the forecast, any new winds have the potential to reignite the flames. Still, there are ways for people to help.

Aerial view of vineyards, showing fire damage on the right. (Photo courtesy of The Lane.)

The South Australian government is establishing a state emergency relief fund, which will be used to help residents and businesses in the affected area. The CFS has a charitable foundation to assist the families of members injured or killed in the line of service. The Australian Red Cross provides emergency housing and support for displaced homeowners. 

More specifically wine-related, Adelaide-based chef and restaurateur Duncan Welgemoed has mobilized the city’s wining and dining establishments to donate private dinners that will be auctioned to raise money for Tilbrook Estate, Vinteloper, SA Country Fire Service, and Adelaide Hills Wine Region Fire Appeal.

It may seem like there’s little that we as wine lovers scattered around the vastness of the globe can do to help, but even a single purchase of an Adelaide Hills wine will help the region recover. If you’re unable or unwilling to donate directly, consider buying some Adelaide Hills wines this coming year. By putting money in the hands of those businesses that need our support in these tough times, you’ll be helping them recover that much faster.

Hero image courtesy of The Lane.

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