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Crop Fire Resources


* * * During a Disaster * * *

If you need assistance with your crops during a disaster, please contact:

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Sonoma County Department of Agriculture


Produce Exposed to Smoke

Vegetable Market Business Poster
At times, air quality in Sonoma County has been significantly impacted by the ongoing fires in the region. Local farms have played a very large and important role in food relief efforts immediately following the start of the fires and the mass evacuations. Many farmers and others in the community are concerned about how the air pollution might be impacting produce. While the University of California does not have data on the levels of these chemicals in produce that have been in contact with smoke and ash, we understand the need to share information with our community at this time. 

When assessing the safety of exposed produce, the difficulty is knowing what has been burning. If it is just vegetation smoke then it’s probably safe to eat produce after rinsing off the ash (just the same as having a bonfire in your garden), although it might still taste/smell smoky.

If the air pollution has particulate matter from treated timber, tires, non-food grade oils, or anything plastic or chlorinated that burned it may include a mixture of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins, and metals.  Exposure to fire retardant may have also occurred. 

An unpublished literature review on the health impacts of PAHs from traffic-related air pollution on lettuce grown in urban agriculture found that:

  • Some PAHs can be absorbed into plant tissue, and so cannot be simply washed off. 
  • The health risk from eating these PAHs is a small proportion of the health impact from breathing them, and it is far below the EPA’s level of concern for lifetime cancer risk. 
  • It is possible that the health benefit of eating the vitamins and nutrients in green leafy vegetables might outweigh that negligible negative impact. 
  • There is not enough research available on the cumulative impacts of air pollution on produce to make any solid conclusions about the health impacts. 

Produce Safety after Urban Wildfire study conducted following Oct 2017 fires in Sonoma County.

Fires & Food Safety flyer by USDA FSIS, 2/2013. 

Food Safety after Fire by USDA FSIS, 8/2013. 

Assessing Ag and Forestry Losses

UCCE Sonoma County Advisors are available to help you assess agricultural losses due to the fires. For more information, call our office 707-565-2621 or email:
Assistance programs: Grants & Loans 

Crop Loss Reporting and Federal Assistance

Sonoma County Department of Agriculture will be asking property owners report potential damage and/or loss sustained from disasters. This information will be used to compile a damage assessment report for Sonoma County in order to qualify Sonoma County for federal assistance.
Fire Damage Survey please complete by 10/31/2020.
This is a fillable pdf, hit submit when completed and it will open an email with the completed survey attached, you can then send it.

Federal Assistance and Crop Insurance

It is imperative that you keep records of everything that pertains to the loss (e.g. photo documentation, receipts, tests, correspondence). See: Documenting Disaster Losses (pdf).
Crops rejected due to smoke taint documentation includes: rejection letter, a copy of test results showing smoke taint, and keep track of what happens to the crop. If vines, see: Should You Drop Unsold Fruit or Leave it on the Vine?

For 2020 agricultural losses due to disaster: call or email USDA Farm Service Agency's Sonoma County office to get on their Disaster list and they will contact you if/when a program is ready. See also: Grants & Loans for Disasters.

If you have crop insurance, contact your adjuster right away.

If you do not have crop insurance, review USDA’s Risk Management (crop insurance) programs that could apply to your operation. (It won’t help now). You can find an agent here (input your address and click on search).


October, 2017. Photo by Mary Halasz
October, 2017. Photo by Mary Halasz
Grapevines are very resilient and do not burn easily. In many cases the vineyards are acting like fire breaks and are likely playing a role in the fact that only a limited amount of wineries have been destroyed or significantly damaged in the fires surrounding them. We expect that the grapevines will recover fully if they did not actually burn, although yield may be impacted.