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Too early to say how avocados fared

October 24, 2007 |  2:26 pm

The wildfires have raged in some of the richest areas of the state's avocado crop, including the foothills above Irvine in Orange County and Fallbrook and Valley Center in San Diego County.
Based on early reports, an official with the California Avocado Commission said the state has likely lost 10% to 20% of what was expected to be a $325 to $350 million crop this year.
But Guy Witney, the commission’s director of industry affairs said most of the trees probably survived.
One fire, he said, passed through the through a 1,000-acre grove in the Irvine Ranch, burning the only the first two rows of trees, irrigation piping and leaves on the ground, before jumping into the brush on the far side of the orchard.
Jerome Stehly, who farms 1,000 acres of avocados in Fallbrook, Bonsall and Valley Center, said his orchards had escaped damage. He estimates that other farmers in the region had lost at least 200 acres of trees to the fire, but cautioned that it was still too early to collect solid data.
“It is hard to see how much has been lost so far. The fire has hop-scotched around,” Stehly said.

-- Jerry Hirsch