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"It is what it is; we'll take what comes," said Hurst, who has lived more than 20 years in the remote development. "And hope to get home."

The fire started just after noon Tuesday near a home on Butts Canyon Road, just north of the Aetna Springs Winery. A caller reporting the fire told Cal Fire officials the blaze started with someone whacking weeds. Cal Fire officials Wednesday said they still haven't confirmed how the fire started.

The blaze quickly grew and by nightfall was reported at nearly 3,000 acres. Tuesday night's cool temperatures and high humidity lessened the fire's ferocity and gave hand crews and dozer operators a chance to build lines around the fire and hinder its growth.

Yet the wind picked up again Wednesday afternoon in the day's blazing heat. At that point, "things started to heat up and the fire became active," Cal Fire Spokesman Daniel Berlant said. The blaze began spreading again in a north/ northeast direction and charged across the Lake County Line toward Snell Peak, also closing in on Berryessa Estates.

A dark billowing plume of smoke that had dissipated early Wednesday again rose into the sky by afternoon. Spot fires raged in patches on either side of Butts Canyon Road and on ridge lines. Air tankers and helicopters circled above, dropping loads of fire retardant and water onto the hillsides.

Along Butts Canyon Road, the buzz of chainsaws and insects bounced off the hillsides. An inmate crew from Humboldt County cut brush along the road to prepare for a back fire planned to help clear dry brush and trees.

Across from the crew in a dirt driveway, Blake Fifield sat in his pickup after checking on his 120-acre property. Fifty acres were destroyed, said Fifield, a contractor who lives across the valley in an area not currently threatened by the fire.

"It's pretty devastating," Fifield, 50, said. "Pope Valley's oldest cypress grove is gone."

Evacuation orders remained for Napa County residents in the Berryessa Estates and along Butts Canyon Road from James Creek to Snell Valley roads. In Lake County, Cal Fire officials issued an evacuation advisory for residents on Butts Canyon Road from the Lake County border to Langtry Estates.

Officials cut power Wednesday in Pope Valley and to the east on Aetna Springs Road and Butts Canyon roads, PG&E Spokesperson Brittney McKannay said. About 250 households were without service after PG&E de-energized power lines in the area to make it safer for firefighters. The agency was also repairing some damaged utility poles but hoped to have electricity restored later Wednesday night.

About 30 people stayed at the evacuation center at Middletown High School Tuesday night. More were expected Wednesday at the shelter, where there was plenty of space, said Susanne La Faver, volunteer spokesperson for the Red Cross.

Most people brought cots out into the high school parking lot where they could sleep with their dogs and other animals.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Scott McLean gathered with residents in the high school gym Wednesday afternoon to give a report on the firefight. Resident Richard Smiarowski, 59, said he was concerned about the number of foreclosed homes with neglected landscapes where tall grasses could feed a fire.

"Berryessa Estates looks good. There is a lot of smoke in the area, but the fire has not been there yet," McLean said.

The Salvation Army from Napa County was providing three hot meals a day. Other people were staying at local hotels and Twin Pine Casino & Hotel, La Faver said.

Requests for dog crates to hold people's pets had increased Wednesday, said director Bill Davidson with Lake County Animal Control. Outside the shelter, dogs and people escaped the heat in the spray of a hose.

There were no new road closures Wednesday, but Butts Canyon Road between Snell Valley Road to the north and Aetna Springs Road to the south remained shut, Cal Fire officials said.

The Lake County area threatened by the blaze is rural and sparsely populated, but home to numerous ranches. Other ranchers have offered to keep livestock for people living in the threatened area, Davidson and La Faver said.

"The community comes together to help out in times like this," Davidson added.

Perhaps for that reason, the county's animal disaster response team had been put on alert Wednesday morning, but not yet activated. If they are activated, they will head into areas threatened by the blaze and help evacuate livestock and other animals. They'll also set up staging areas for the animals.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no large vineyards or farms were immediately threatened by the blaze, Berlant said.

La Faver added that many local residents have been approaching the Red Cross and volunteering to assist. However, the Red Cross requires that volunteers be registered and trained. She encouraged people wishing to help out to sign up as a volunteer at www.redcross.org so that they can be trained to assist during the next disaster.

(Staff Writers Jamie Hansen and Elizabeth M. Cosin contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.)