Butts Fire: 2 homes destroyed in 4,300-acre wildfire; more threatened

The Butts Fire in the Pope Valley area of Napa County by Thursday had burned 4,300 acres, destroyed two homes and prompted the mandatory evacuation of hundreds of others.
CAL FIRE PIO Daniel Berlant
CAL FIRE PIO Daniel Berlant
CAL FIRE PIO Daniel Berlant

A stubborn wildfire in rural Northern California's Napa County damaged two homes and forced the evacuation those living in 200 others, but so far is not posing a threat to its world famous vineyards.

The Butts Fire grew to more than 6.5 square miles as the fire raced uphill. The steep and rugged terrain also forced firefighters to build containment lines without bulldozers, said Alicia Amaro, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze had scorched more than 4,300 acres by its third day, state fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. It has damaged nine structures, including the two homes.

The fire made short runs uphill overnight as the steep and rugged terrain forced crews to build containment lines by hand and without the help of bulldozers, Amaro said.

No injuries have been reported, and the cause of the fire remains unknown. The fire was burning to the north, away from the county's famed vineyards.

Butts Fire: More details at KPCC's Fire Tracker

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

Pope Valley is about 20 miles north of Napa Valley.

Residents in nearly 200 homes in a subdivision in the county's Pope Valley were allowed to return after an evacuation order was lifted Thursday afternoon, but 180 others remained threatened, state fire officials said.

Despite the fire-containment level plateauing at 30 percent, the nearly 1,100 firefighters on the scene were making steady progress as temperatures climbed into the mid-90s, Berlant said.

However, "it's still growing at a faster rate than we can build containment lines. We're also seeing a bit of a warming pattern, and the winds are picking up as well," Berlant said. "This fire is taking a very aggressive run."

No injuries have been reported, and the cause of the fire remains unknown.

The fire exploded because of dry conditions across the state caused by the drought, Berlant said. Officials are hoping for full containment early next week.

The fast-moving blaze began Tuesday afternoon in Napa County. Within hours, it covered 600 acres and then spiked to 2,700 acres by late evening as it spread northeast. State firefighters and crews from Napa, Lake and Solano counties spent a second day working in 90-degree weather on Wednesday.

SFGate notes the fire has underscored a concern that the dry winter has the potential to fuel one of the worst fire seasons in decades.

"No one can really remember it being drier than this," Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley, told SFGate. "We're like two months drier than usual. This is like September, when everything is nearly bone-dry."

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

Social media on the Butts Fire

This story has been updated.