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160 homes evacuated as Napa County fire burns 3,200 acres (w/video)

  • The Cal Fire helitack crew from Boggs Mountain puts out flames Tuesday, July 1, 2014, around a Cal Fire dozer transport as the Butts Canyon fire jumps Butts Canyon Road outside of Middletown. (Kent Porter / PD)

A massive wildfire in northeastern Napa and Lake counties on Tuesday forced the evacuation of more than 160 households and scorched more than 3,200 acres of heavily wooded hillsides parched by years of drought conditions.

The fire northeast of Pope Valley, which was about 30 percent contained early Wednesday morning, is the largest wildland blaze in California in several weeks, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

Residents of a dozen homes in Pope Valley along Butts Canyon Road and residents of at least 150homes in the nearby Berryessa Estates community were forced to flee their homes as the blaze quickly grew.

Butts Fire

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At least 380 structures were threatened at Berryessa Estates and along Butts Canyon Road from James Creek Road in Napa County to Langtry Estates in Lake County, according to a Cal Fire report early Wednesday.

The bone-dry conditions and extreme heat in previous days left the hillsides primed for such a wildfire, said Mike Wilson, Cal Fire division chief for the Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit.

“This is like burning conditions we'd normally see in August or September,” Wilson said from the Cal Fire command post near where the blaze is believed to have started.

The fire appears to have begun around noon at a home on Butts Canyon Road just north of the Aetna Springs Winery, said Scott Brown, a vineyard manager who lives a few hundred feet from the fire's origin.

Neighbors told him some young men accidentally started the blaze while cutting weeds using a tool with a metal blade, Brown said.

“I don't even let my guys mow the grass when it's like this,” Brown said.

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