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Wildfire in Napa County misses wineries, threatens more homes

#ButtsFire continues to grow, destroy structures, but has so far missed Napa's prized vineyards

A wildfire burning in Napa County has forced hundreds of evacuations and scorched thousands of acres of parched vegetation, but it continues to miss the region’s famous wineries.

The Butts fire has charred 3,800 acres of brush, pine and oak trees in rugged terrain as it spread from Napa County into Lake County, state forestry officials said. The wind, however, has been pushing the flames north, away from Napa's prized vineyards.

About 800 firefighters were battling the blaze Tuesday night, even as more crews from Los Angeles County and other areas of the state were ordered to respond to the fire, which was 30% contained. Crews are expected to fly over the fire Thursday morning to reassess the damage and update the size of the burn area.

In the air Wednesday, six helicopters and four fixed-wing tankers made repeated assaults on the wildfire as crews on the ground battled to cut containment lines with bulldozers and firefighters using hand tools, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

As of Wednesday night, flames were threatening about 380 structures. About 200 homes had been evacuated, officials said. Two homes and seven smaller structures have been destroyed.

The fire broke out Tuesday afternoon off Butts Canyon Road in Pope Valley, northwest of Lake Berryessa.

The blaze has burned the oldest cypress grove in Pope Valley, an unincorporated community in northern Napa County, and forced PG&E to turn off power to hundreds of residents, the Press Democrat reported.

Meanwhile, in Sequoia National Forest, the Ranch fire had burned about 150 acres Wednesday night in rugged terrain about 200 miles northeast of Bakersfield, the U.S. Forest Service said.

High temperatures and low humidity were complicating the battle to contain the blaze. About 200 firefighters, aided by helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, were attacking the fire earlier in the day.

In northeastern California, lighting strikes sparked several smaller fires in heavily forested areas, fire officials said. Forest Service smoke jumpers and hotshot crews were being called in to fight the fires.

The blazes broke out as high pressure was causing hot weather across California, according to the National Weather Service.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna and @LAJourno

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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