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Butts fire evacuees face another night away from home (w/video)

"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.


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