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Wildfire near California's wine country grows overnight

By Jennifer Chaussee

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A wildfire near Northern California's Napa Valley wine country grew overnight on Thursday, devouring 4,300 acres (1,740 hectares) and two houses, and prompting more evacuations, officials said.

The fire, which started on Butts Canyon Road in Napa County on Tuesday, was 30 percent contained on Thursday morning after hot, dry weather caused it to spread by about 1,000 acres late on Wednesday and early on Thursday.

About 500 people have been evacuated from their homes as unpredictable winds continue to push the flames through rolling hills of dry brush and oak trees.

The fire is mostly burning in a rural, undeveloped area, but mandatory evacuations have been expanded to include some residential areas in neighboring Lake County along the Napa County border.

Evacuees are awaiting news about their homes at a local high school. Many evacuees had just minutes to collect personal belongings and round up their horses, dogs and other pets.

By Thursday morning, it had consumed two houses and seven out-buildings, and more than 1,000 firefighters had been deployed.

"Every effort is being made to render the evacuated community safe for repopulation," said officials from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire.

Officials said it was unlikely that the fire would spread to the region's famed Napa Valley wine country over the weekend, as the winds continued to carry the flames northeast in the opposite direction of the vineyards.

"I can't predict what the weather would do, but it would have to be a dramatic shift for it to blow that direction," said Alicia Amaro, a CalFire spokeswoman.

Firefighters brought in additional equipment on Wednesday to help maintain a barrier around the perimeter of the fire, including 18 bulldozers and several air tankers, which pour bright red streams of fire retardant over the flames.

Firefighters brought in additional equipment on Wednesday to help maintain a barrier around the perimeter of the fire, including 18 bulldozers and several air tankers, which pour water on the fire from above. 

(Reporting by Jennifer Chaussee; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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