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Wildfire near California's wine country threatens homes

By Jennifer Chaussee

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - In the midst of a statewide drought, a wildfire has consumed 3,200 acres (1,295 hectares) near Northern California's Napa Valley wine country, threatening nearly 400 homes and prompting evacuations, officials said Wednesday.

The fire, which started on Butts Canyon Road in Napa County Tuesday, was 30 percent contained on Wednesday, but could spread if winds kick up later in the afternoon and evening, said Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire.

The fire mostly burned in a rural, undeveloped area, but mandatory evacuations were in effect in neighboring residential areas in Napa County and parts of the Lake County border. One house was believed to have been destroyed along with four other structures that have yet to be identified, she said.

After the fire advanced over thousands of acres Tuesday, firefighters took advantage of cooler temperatures overnight and increased their control over the fire from 10 to 30 percent, Upton said.

But officials were concerned that the hot, dry conditions of Wednesday could advance the fire.

“We all want to wait until we get through this afternoon before we pull out the cautious optimism card,” Upton said. “If we get through this afternoon then we hope to make a good dent in progress overnight.”

There were over 1,000 firefighters and six helicopters working to contain the fire before the holiday weekend.

The battle was expected to cost CalFire hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to fight, Upton said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday that it would reimburse CalFire for 75 percent of the costs of containing the fire.

There were no reported injuries or deaths. Investigators had yet to determine the cause of the fire.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Jim Loney)

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