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Crews battling brush fire in Pope Valley area of Napa County

Firefighters have been working to contain a 2,700 acre fire in Napa County for over 12 hours and hope to make progress overnight.
Crews are battling a raging wildfire in Pope Valley east of Calistoga and St. Helena in Napa County. It has scorched 4,300 acres, destroyed one home and four out buildings and prompted mandatory evacuations for over 200 homes. The fire is about 30-percent contained.

The fire fight has stretched beyond 12 hours, but firefighters say they're making progress. As of 11 p.m. the winds had died down and because of that the firefighters can get much closer to fighting the flames. However, the humidity did not go up as much as expected.

"The winds have died down. That means we are able to get more direct, is what we call it, closer to the fire's edge. You can hear the bulldozers way in the background that are starting to cut some pretty significant lines around this incident," said Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean.



The fire started around 12:08 p.m. in the 7800 block of Butts Canyon Road. Butts Valley, Snell Valley and Aetna Springs roads are closed. The fire jumped Butts Canyon and Snell Valley roads after a sudden shift in the wind, which put Berryessa Estates neighborhood directly in the line of fire. It triggered the mandatory evacuation of 180 homes there.

About 50 residents were cut off when the only road in and out of the neighborhood was swept by flames. After the road was clear, others like Berryessa Estates resident John Hallman decided to stay, but he was warned.

"We have hundreds of feet of brand new fire hose, all the tools to hook it up. We have thought about this many a time with several of our neighbors who are doing the same thing," Hallman said.

"If they see us going, they better be in front of us or on our tails because there's a reason if we're leaving," Santa Rosa Fire Department Capt. Don Ricci said.

To their credit, firefighters say most of the residents created good defensible space. But many evacuated to a Red Cross shelter at Middletown High School 10 miles away.

Berryessa Estates resident Gail Bickett says she was conducting a fire safe council meeting when they were told to leave. She told ABC7 News, "Even though we try to teach people what to do when it happens it's like, 'Oh, did I pack a tooth brush? Is there dog food?' There's two dogs in the car. I had to leave my cats behind and I have chickens I'm concerned about."

Animals are not allowed in the shelter, so Bickett and others stayed outside the shelter with their pets in their cars. The fire came within a quarter mile of Berryessa Estates before change in the wind turned the direction of the fire away.

Officials evacuated a horse ranch in Butts Canyon, including the 15 to 20 children who were there for a day camp. "You could see the fire line and there has to be at least 50 firemen at least working the line and hoping to keep it from jumping the road, so as long as it doesn't jump the road we'll be OK," Debbie Gardiner said.

Those who live and work in Butts Canyon could only stand by the road and watch.

"There were crews on the scene, they were there right away, there's more coming. It feels really good knowing they are attacking it like that," evacuee Melissa Calember said.

Pope Valley resident David Tierney, who lives near where the fire started, tried to stop it along with some neighborhood kids who grabbed garden hoses. He said, "So the fire kept going that way and slowly up hill and the kids did a great job with the hose up here and mostly stopped it from burning their house."

Earlier during the day crews battled the fire from the ground and with air tankers filled with fire retardant to keep the flames from reaching the homes. Officials say state firefighters and crews from Napa, Lake and Solano counties spent the day battling the fire in 90-degree weather.

No injuries have been reported. There are reports that a weed whacker may have started the fire, but Cal Fire is still investigating the cause.

Stay with abc7news.com for updates on this developing story.
The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this story.
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