Raging California wine county wildfires force evacuations

The fires had stretched Sonoma and Napa counties firefighting resources to the breaking point in California.

NAPA, Calif. -- A wind-whipped wildfire roared to life Sunday night, quickly growing to more than 200 acres on Atlas Peak near the Silverado County Club in Napa County, triggering dozens of evacuations.

The Atlas Peak fire was the largest of several wildfires burning in California’s scenic Wine Country.

Cal Fire said firefighters were battling several blazes in Sonoma County. The largest was in the area of Porter Creek Road and Petrified Forest Road near Calistoga where mandatory evacuations were ordered for residents along Porter Creek, Petrified Forest, Franz Valley and Mountain Home Ranch Rd.

Early Monday morning, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department said fires had erupted at Mark West Springs and Riebli roads in Santa Rosa, at Shiloh and Conde roads in Windsor and at Highway 116 and Fredericks Road in Sebastopol.

The fires had stretched Sonoma and Napa counties firefighting resources to the breaking point. A call for mutual aid was issued to other Bay Area fire departments.

The National Weather Service had issued a red flag warning for the Bay Area early Sunday, predicting gusty winds and dry conditions. Gusts were predicted to be in the 30 mph range in the area of the fire.

The rapidly moving Atlas Peak fire was visible throughout Napa Valley and heavy smoke was draping over the region. Cal Fire said the blaze broke out on Atlas Peak Road just south of Lake Berryessa at 9:50 p.m.

Authorities said the blaze was quickly moving toward the Silverado Trail — an area dotted with homes and wineries. Officials said the Silverado Country Club — site of this week’s PGA Tour tournament — was evacuated.

Flames were also burning near the Domaine Carneros winery.

Mandatory evacuation were for homes on Atlas Peak Road, including Silverado Country Club; Knights Valley to Tubbs Lane in Calistoga; Partrick Road; Monticello Road to Circle Oaks Subdivision and Soda Canyon Road.

Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean said there was no containment of Atlas Peak fire at 12:30 a.m. Monday with winds blowing at 28 mph and the humidity at just 12.

“Very, very volatile fire conditions,” McLean said.

The Napa Valley Register was reporting that authorities were going house to house just north of Silverado Resort urging residents to leave. The paper said there were reports of at least three structures burning on Atlas Peak.

Napa officials said two evacuation centers had been opened — at the Crosswalk Community Church on First Street and at the Napa County Fairgrounds. In Calistoga, an evacuation center was opened at the Calistoga Fairgrounds.

A large plume of smoke from the fire drifted as far south of San Francisco and the East Bay where residents were reporting the strong smell of smoke in the air.

For long time Napa Valley residents the massive fire rekindled memories of the 1981 Atlas Peak wildfire. In that blaze, 23,000 acres were burned, $36 million was done in damage, 65 structures were destroyed and 11 people were injured.

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