They used tractors, hoses, water trucks, hoes, rakes and even wet blankets to keep the fire from taking hold of the ranch the night the Tubbs Fire broke out, and it worked. After 10 grueling hours of chasing and dousing flames, the Triple S Ranch was saved.
“It was a night I won’t forget,” said owner Derek Webb of the evening hours of Sunday, Oct. 8 that bled into the wee hours and morning of Monday, Oct. 9.
The Triple S Ranch is a boutique resort located at 4600 Mountain Home Ranch Rd. in Calistoga.
Working with Don Fowler, Webb’s neighbor and the assistant chief of the Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, each called in their workers to help fight the fire that was racing west over Mountain Home Ranch Road where Triple S Ranch is located.
“Nine of us basically defended the perimeter of (Fowler’s) land and my land,” Webb said of their work that started somewhere around 10 p.m. Sunday and ended around 8 the next morning.
Fowler was the one who alerted Webb to smoke in the area. Webb said he couldn’t smell it so they went looking for fire. On their way back they saw it – a fireball headed their way. It was oddly beautiful, mesmerizing and terrifying at the same time.
They used tractors to build a perimeter and hoses to douse the flames. They drained all the water tanks on the property and at about 3 a.m. they took a water truck that is used for keeping down dust on the roads and kept filling it up with water from the pool and hot tub.
The fire touched the perimeter of every corner of Webb’s property, he said. They would put out the flames in one corner only to find fire in another and have to race across the 12 acres to attack another fire.
“There were nine of us working in concert. We barely spoke throughout the evening,” Webb said, adding that looking back it was a beautiful moment when everyone was working together for a common purpose.
The fires were manageable, he said, in part because he had been working on clearing out “tons of underbrush” prior to the Tubbs Fire. Fire in this area is “not if, but when,” he said, so reducing the fuel on the property probably kept flames down in size as they approached.
“I was a Boy Scout and spent a lot of time in wilderness. One thing I do know about fire – it’s fickle. Fire does not want to be alive. You have a lot of opportunity to suppress a fire,” he said. But this fire was wind-driven with winds whipping this way and that, with some reports of winds reaching more than 70 mph.
Fowler, Webb and their team took “a very methodical approach to putting things out,” Webb said.
But, he’s certain that if they hadn’t been there, “I know we would have lost everything,” he said.
To Webb, who bought the property in 2011, Triple S Ranch is not just a home and business, it is “an irreplaceable piece of history,” he said.
“This is a very old historic Napa Valley residence and resort. It’s been operating since 1958. It has a long history of colorful people. It’s a real piece of Napa history. There are buildings that go back to the 1860s,” Webb said.
Before Robert Mondavi was a celebrity, he ate Sunday dinners there, and boxer Rocky Marciano trained and stayed there, and the ranch was the scene for one of model Kate Spade’s first photo shoots, Webb said.
A couple events scheduled to be held in October at Triple S, which hosts a lot of destination weddings and corporate events, have been postponed because of the fire. “People have been super gracious,” Webb said, about the cancellations.
The whole fire event – fighting the fire, saving the ranch, and now the aftermath – have been a roller coaster ride of emotions for Webb.
“I feel very fortunate. The thing that’s hard for me…I’ve had many failures. The line can be thin between success and failure,” he said adding that while he’s grateful for saving his own property it’s gut-wrenching to know that others lost everything.
“Every time I drive down (Mountain Home Ranch Road) I start crying. I can’t help seeing that” others have nothing to go back to, knowing that “could have been me,” he said.