NAPA (CBS SF) — A fast-growing wildfire erupted near Middletown Saturday afternoon, triggering mandatory evacuation orders for residents along Snell Valley Road and in Berryessa Estates.
Cal Fire said the Snell Fire was burning on Butts Canyon Road and Snell Valley Road about 7 miles southeast of Middletown near the Napa-Lake County order.
The blaze has scorched 1700 acres and was only 10 percent contained by Saturday evening, according to Cal Fire.
The fire is nipping at the backyards of homes in Berryessa Estates, threatening some 180 homes. The area around Lake Berryessa has a history of fires and firefighters are well aware of the dangers they pose to communities that only have one way in and one way out
The fire — which was first reported at around 2:30 p.m. — is an “extraordinary threat to life and property,” according to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office.
So far, ten air tankers, bulldozers, hand crews and 60 engines were attacking the blaze.
As the fire spread, additional evacuations were ordered Saturday evening for residents living on the west side of Berryessa Knoxville Road from Pope Creek Bridge to the Napa County line.
The California Highway Patrol was allowing just outbound traffic on Snell Valley Road to aid residents fleeing the flames. Temperatures were in the upper 80s with gusty winds in the area.
Officials have set up an evacuation center at Pope Valley Farm Center located at 5800 Pope Valley Road.
Robert Lopez was working in Napa when the fire started. He quickly returned to his home in Berryessa Estates to gather his belongings when he heard about the fire.
“It’s California we always have fires here so we’re ready,” said Lopez.
At the rate the flames are moving, Cal Fire expects a surge overnight as they struggle for containment. Investigators are trying to figure out how the blaze started.
The biggest concern are the winds that keep fueling the blaze.
“We’re hoping the winds will die down, but we had really warm weather this afternoon,” said Cal Fire spokesperson Paul Lowenthal. “The winds definitely increased this evening, so that’s a concern of ours.”
Out of the 60 engines on scene, many of them are the larger structure protection engines, specifically used to save homes. Crews were hoping the weather cooperates and that every single home will be saved.
Meantime, firefighters say the evacuation order will remain in place at least until Sunday morning.