Old fire grows to 570 acres north of Napa, evacuees return home

Fire crews made “significant progress” on the blaze overnight, according to Cal Fire.|

As of Wednesday morning, residents who were evacuated due to the Old fire, burning just north of Napa, have been allowed to return home, according to the Napa County Office of Emergency Services.

In a Nixle alert issued late Tuesday, the agency warned residents to “use extreme caution when returning” as the vegetation fire reported hours earlier continued to burn.

The blaze, which scorched 570 acres, was 15% contained as of early Wednesday, according to the most recent updates from Cal Fire, which along with fire crews from the Napa County Fire Department and the city of Napa Fire Department worked through the night to strengthen fire lines.

No injuries have been reported and a cause has not yet been determined.

Authorities initially ordered mandatory evacuations along a stretch of Old Soda Springs Road spanning to the end of the roadway.

And, due to the fire’s activity, a road closure at Soda Canyon Road and Silverado Trail was in effect until further notice, officials said.

The fire is burning in an area that was badly burned in the Atlas fire,** which started Oct. 8, 2017. It burned 51,264 acres of land, destroyed 120 structures and damaged 783 structures, according to Cal Fire. The blaze was also responsible for six fatalities, officials said.

Shortly after 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Napa County announced it had opened an evacuation center at 2300 Old Soda Springs Road.

The evacuation center was set up at Crosswalk Community Church, 2590 First St. in Napa, according to the Napa County Office of Emergency Services, where evacuees in need of food, water, or charging stations were welcome. Authorities said an overnight shelter would be established if needed.

The Napa Community Animal Response Team was also activated. A livestock shelter was set up at the Valley Brook Equestrian Center, 1132 El Centro Ave., in Napa. Those in need were instructed to call ahead of arrival, 707-732-1555 or email: info@napacart.org.

Flames were spreading at a moderate rate and there appeared to be more room for the fire to grow, Cal Fire Division Chief Tom Knecht told The Press Democrat shortly after the blaze was reported.

A Press Democrat reporter at the scene said flames appeared to be spreading fairly rapidly through an area where homes are scattered.

Officials confirmed that structures are threatened, as many as 50 according to some reports, but Knecht said he didn’t have specifics on the buildings that were in danger.

By about 7:30 p.m., the blaze appeared to be creeping up a steep ravine above Soda Canyon.

Fire crews had been building defensive lines in anticipation of it reaching the ridge and aircraft had been called in to fight the flames from above.

Mountain cameras showed a plume of white smoke that could be seen as far away as downtown Santa Rosa, rising above the scene.

Matt Mehle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said satellite footage showed smoke moving south from Napa with potential to head east toward Vacaville. It was less likely the smoke would enter Sonoma County.

Gusty winds moved 10 to 15 mph during the early period of the fire, which was typical for late afternoon.

“Once the sun sets, the winds will diminish in that area,” Mehle said.

This fire follows one that broke out a week ago and scorched 5-acres in St. Helena on May 23. It burned in the area of Pope Street and Silverado Trail and was contained with no damage or evacuations.

**Correction: This article has been updated to correct the details of a prior wildfire that burned in the area where the Old fire is now burning.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi

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