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July 4, 2014

California fire grows, no major vineyards at risk

SAN FRANCISCO — A raging wildfire in rural Northern California has spread over 5 square miles and forced the evacuation of 200 homes in Napa County. But it was not threatening any major vineyards on Wednesday, a fire official and a spokeswoman for a vintners association said.

More than 1,000 firefighters were hoping to get a better handle on the Butts Fire in remote Pope Valley.

Crews made progress overnight Tuesday in controlling the blaze that was 30 percent contained, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire has damaged one home and four outbuildings. In addition to the mandatory evacuations, another 180 homes were threatened.

No injuries have been reported. The cause of the fire was unknown.

“The temperatures went down, and the humidity went up — and that really helped slow down this fire,” Berlant said.

State fire Deputy Chief Gabrielle Avina said crews were also aided by lighter winds overnight and hoped those conditions would hold throughout the day.

The fast-moving blaze began Tuesday afternoon in Napa County and within hours covered 600 acres and then spiked to 2,700 acres by late evening as it spread northeast into neighboring Lake County. State firefighters and crews from Napa, Lake and Solano counties spent the day working in 90-degree weather, and similar temperatures were expected Wednesday.

“This fire exploded because the conditions are so dry all across California,” Berlant said. “We were definitely surprised by this one.”

State fire spokeswoman State McCambridge said Wednesday that the fire is not affecting the lucrative Napa Valley vineyards. Pope Valley is about 20 miles north of Napa Valley.

Cate Conniff, a spokeswoman for the Napa Valley Vintners, a nonprofit trade association, agreed. “It has not come anywhere close to what we consider Napa Valley wineries. It is moving in the opposite direction, and it continues to move that way. We’re keeping an eye out on it,” Conniff said

Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday that he has secured federal funds to help fire departments absorb some of the cost of fighting the fire.

Elsewhere in California, firefighters were surrounding a blaze in Shasta-Trinity National Forest that forced the evacuation of about 15 homes. Forest spokeswoman Andrea Capps said the fire has burned through 35 acres since it started Tuesday and was 70 percent contained.

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