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Damaging California fire grows to 5 square miles

Published: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 1:12 p.m. CDT
(AP Photo/Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Kent Porter)
The Cal Fire helitack crew from Boggs Mountain puts out flames around a Cal Fire dozer transport as the Butts Canyon fire jumps Butts Canyon Road, Tuesday, July 1, 2014 . outside Middletown, Calif., near the border between Napa and Lake counties. By early evening 140 homes were evacuated and 2,500 acres were burned.

SAN FRANCISCO — More than 1,000 firefighters are hoping to get a better handle Wednesday on a raging wildfire in rural Northern California that has spread to 5 square miles and forced the evacuation of 200 homes, officials said.

The Butts Fire in the Pope Valley area of Napa County had scorched about 3,200 acres Wednesday. Crews made progress overnight Tuesday in controlling the flames, which remained 30 percent contained, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire has already damaged one home and four outbuildings, Berlant said.

"The temperatures went down and the humidity went up and that really helped slow down this fire," Berlant said. "We're hoping with the containment lines and the 1,000 firefighters on hand will help us make a stand."

State fire Deputy Chief Gabrielle Avina said Wednesday that crews were also aided by lighter winds overnight. They were hoping those conditions would hold throughout the day.

The fast-moving blaze began shortly before noon Tuesday and within hours spread to 600 acres. By late Tuesday night, 2,700 acres were blackened. State firefighters and crews from Napa, Lake and Solano counties spent Tuesday 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."

On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he has secured federal funds to help fire departments cover the cost of battling the blaze.

In addition to the 200 mandatory evacuations, another 180 homes are threatened, Avina added.

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

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