Lake Berryessa residents evacuate, Steele Fire burns 7 homes

- Fire crews are working in Napa to contain the Steele fire that destroyed seven homes after flames broke out suddenly near the southern edge of Lake Berryessa around 4:30 p.m. Saturday. The fire quickly burned 150 acres, prompting a mandatory evacuation order for the nearby Berryessa Highlands neighborhood and Steele Canyon Road.

"This a fire that spread pretty rapidly and was able to consume 150 acres in a short period of time. Fortunately we were able to get a lot of resources in here and hold it to that point right now," said Paul Lowenthal, a Cal-Fire spokesman who works as assistant fire marshal with Santa Rosa Fire Department

Fire crews lined up on Arroyo Grande Drive where the blackened hills show just how dangerously close the flames came to the houses. Two helicopters circled to and from Lake Berryessa, dipping into the lake to fill buckets that were emptied onto the flames in the hills.

Fire officials said seven homes were destroyed and one was damaged. The fire was 50% contained by Sunday morning. A CalFire official said they were able to make good progress overnight.

On highway 121 a stream of cars sped away from the area following the evacuation order.

"We were at the lake and we were camping with all our friends and I looked up and saw the cloud of smoke," said Eve Harsted, a camper from Santa Rosa.

Many waited at the roadblock near the intersection of Highway 128 and Highway 121,  wondering if their houses escaped the flames.

With fires burning in Mendocino, Lake, Napa and Shasta counties, some families have had to respond to multiple evacuation orders.

"My husband went to go get his mother from Lake County because she's evacuated from up there and before he could get back here we got evacuated. As far as I know the fire is at the end of our street," said Christine Byers, who lives in the Berryessa Highlands evacuation zone.

The heat and the stress, for her mother-in-law Nancy Heitz and so many other people who made it through last year's fires, is taking it's toll.

"I came up here and it don't help and it's hot," said Heitz, who was worried about the cat she had to leave behind.

"It's all really, really overwhelming I'm ready to go somewhere where it rains a lot," said Byers.

Fire crews have been stationed up in the hills to protect the houses. They plan to battle the fire through the night.

 A shelter has been set up for residents of Berryessa Highlands at the Crosswalk Community Church, 2590 1st Street in Napa.

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