California fires are kind to floral

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    WillieeArmellini
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    “We’ve been pretty fortunate,” Kasey Cronquist, chief executive of the California Cut Flower Commission, which promotes the state’s flower farmers, said by phone while visiting the fire-damaged area.

    The Thomas Fire has claimed the life of one firefighter and burned down more than 700 homes. Strong winds in the mountains near Santa Barbara could cause flare-ups in the coming days.

    But the region’s flower growers, who employ almost 800 people and generate a daily economic impact of more than $2.1 million according to Cronquist, have dodged serious damage much to the delight of florists and brides-to-be everywhere.

    ‘PERISHABLE PRODUCT’

    However, they have not escaped unscathed: Rose Flower Farm lost almost a week of deliveries in an industry where the product is shipped daily.

    “These aren’t crops that can just hang on trees and wait until this thing passes,” Cronquist said. “It’s a very perishable product that just needs to keep moving.”

    Carpinteria’s West Orchids Inc, founded by one of four Dutch families who moved to the valley in the late 1960s to grow flowers, saw the flames advance to within a half-mile of the 30-acre farm, keeping workers away.

    Its marketing director, David Van Wingerden, figured he will have to pay a lot of overtime as staff catch up, and he worried the ash covering his greenhouses could slow flower growth.

    “The impact is going to be yet to come,” he said. “We’ll have to see if we have any quality issues.”

    Hahn said the 200 rose stems she lost to firefighting efforts were nothing compared to the 25,000 roses and property they saved. Hann and her husband Bill charge $45 for 10 stems.

    She recalled the 50-foot flames approaching her 15-acre farm and the relief she felt when the firefighters’ plan to create a gap with a second blaze snuffed out the approaching danger.

    “You could feel it. You could hear it,” she said of the heat and flames.

    People further afield were also affected. Liz Griffith, owner of Siloh Floral Artistry in Denver, has a destination wedding on the Big Island of Hawaii on Saturday. She had ordered 100 stems from Rose Story Farm but knew Monday they wouldn’t arrive.

    Griffith arranged for 50 roses from another supplier and filled in with other flowers. Having had other weddings she served affected by a tsunami or ravenous insects, she took the news in stride.

    “The world of flowers is pretty much unpredictable because we can’t control nature,” Griffith said.

    Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Cynthia Osterman
    Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles

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