Updated as of Sunday, October 15, 4P EST

It's been almost a week since the devastating fires began in California and I am slowly starting to hear from the wonderful friends I have made out there.

Many were displaced because of forced evacuations and most were without power or cell service for days.

Thankfully, they are all ok.

But that's not the story for everyone.

The death toll has risen to 40 people and approximately 5,700 homes and other structures have been destroyed, according to California State Wide Fire Summary.

Firefighters still are working around the clock, battling against 17 wildfires, that have burned almost 221,800 acres.

And while many of these fires have been contained, they won't truly go out until the winter rains begin, which -- fingers crossed -- is soon.

As of Thursday night, the Napa County Sheriff's Office lifted the mandatory evacuation orders for many parts of the county so people finally can return to their homes. Calistoga, a small city on the northern part of the Valley, was still under mandatory evacuation though.

I have heard from my friends at many of the Valley's vineyards, like Shafer Vineyards, St. Supery Vineyards & WineryCakebread Cellars and Domaine Chandon. They - and their properties -- are all ok.

But Sonoma County did not fare as well.

While most of the vineyards are fine, lives were lost and so many homes and buildings were destroyed.

Towns like Santa Rosa suffered severely and there were awful stories of elderly residents who were unable to escape

"Our son's high school in Santa Rosa burned to the ground, with just a few buildings left standing," says Tony Lombardi of Lombardi Wines, who at the time of this writing had displaced students staying with him while their parents scrambled to find new housing.

And he still hadn't been able to get to Coursey Graves Winery, the winery that makes his wines - though he thought it was ok.

Speculation abounds about how the fires started. Many are pointing to the winds and down power lines in an already dry area. And then fires came fast and at night -- too fast for many to escape.

The Wines

And while it seems trivial to worry about the wines, they are the bulk of their local economy.

The good news is that harvest - the time of year when the grapes are picked off the vines -- was around 90% complete.

The grapes that were left on the vines were mainly were the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and they usually are last to be picked. Thankfully, though, Cabernet grapes have thick skins.

So many of the winemakers are at not worried about those grapes being damaged by the smoke, a.k.a. smoke taint, says Patsy McGaughy, Napa Valley Vintners communications director.

But it is all yet to be seen. "The beauty of wine, though, is that it is ever-changing and not a product of the moment," reminds McGaughy.

So everyone is hopeful and trying to get back to business.

"Our teams are out picking," says Peter Heitz, the winemaker at Turnbull Wine Cellars

"Because leaving the fruit in the field is a disservice to all the hard work we've done preparing for this glorious harvest. We worked all season for this."

And while everyone is wearing safety gear because of the horrible air quality, "Our people want to work," says Heitz, who is one of the many who had to evacuate Calistoga. He and his family are "camping out at Turnbull" until they are allowed to return to their home.

Of course he. and many other winemakers, will take samples of their wines to local labs to have it tested for smoke taint, but they are optimistic it will all be ok.

"It's a tragedy for wine country but we can recover because we have the community to do that," says Heitz.

Economic Impact

Many of the roads still are restricted for emergency personnel only and the air quality is not good.

So there undeniably will be an economic impact. Harvest is a prime time for visitors to both Napa and Sonoma Counties.

"We are telling people to consider coming to the Napa Valley at another time," says McGaughy.

But tourism is one of the largest industries in the Napa Valley and supports around 13,400 jobs and sends over $80 million in tax revenues to the government.

In 2016, the Napa Valley, for instance, had 3.5 million visitors, up 6.3% in 2014, with each hotel guest spending around $402 per day, according to Visit Napa Valley. So there clearly be financial strains.

So there get out and help. Check out this section of the CA.gov site for organzitions that accept donations.

Or better yet, "just buy the wines from the '17 vintage," says Heitz.

I, for one, can't wait to do just that.

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