Butts Fire: Neighbors Evacuated, Napa County Man Stays Behind to Care for Neighbors' Pets

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For three days, the wildfire burning in Northern California forced the evacuation of 180 homes in a rural Napa County neighborhood, but one man stayed behind to try and help his neighbors take care of their pets. Mark Matthews reports. (Published Thursday, Jul 3, 2014)

    For three days, the wildfire burning in Northern California forced the evacuation of 180 homes in a rural Napa County neighborhood, but one man stayed behind to try and help his neighbors take care of their pets.

    Scores of residents of the Berryessa Estates subdivision in Pope Valley left for work on Tuesday without knowing they wouldn’t be back for a while.

    The Butts Fire forced authorities to block access to the only road leading into the community at the north end of Lake Berryessa.

    It was at that road block Thursday morning that NBC Bay Area met Dennis Pratt. He left home on Monday for what he thought was going to be an overnight trip.

    “I tried to come home Tuesday, but they wouldn’t let us in,” he said.

    Stranded at home were Pratt’s medicine and three dogs: a Lab, a Lab mix and a Chihuahua.

    Cal Fire was at first worried about the fire moving into Berryessa Estates and then worried that letting residents back in would slow down the fire and power company crews.

    Even as the risk appeared to diminish late Thursday, the access road remained blocked.

    “They’re not allowing us to go up yet,” Pratt said.

    What Pratt didn’t know is that one of his neighbors was at his house, rescuing his pets.

    John Hallman is part of a neighborhood fire prevention team who stayed behind to help his neighbors who couldn’t get home.

    He’s been breaking into his neighbors' homes to check on their animals.

    “I’ve been doing my best to rescue cats and dogs and one pig, chickens,” Hallman said.

    When Hallman broke into Pratt’s house on Wednesday, he found the Chihuahua inside, without food or water.

    “They wouldn’t have made it ... Probably not ... It gets really hot out here in the afternoons,” he said.

    Back at the road block, Pratt found a Cal Fire public information officer willing to give him a ride to get his medicine.

    He rushed in to find his dogs and then came out to find Hallman waiting to meet him.

    “I love my dogs. Thank you very much,” Pratt told Hallman. “More than thank you.”

    For Pratt, the kindness of a neighbor was overwhelming.

    Hallman thanked the Cal Fire crews that he believes saved this community.

    "The amount of vehicles that responded seemed like instantly,” he said.

    Hallman is convinced Cal Fire’s efforts made the difference to Berryessa Estates.

    “Some of the fuel loads we have here are almost explosive,” he said. “It’s scary.”

    As of Thursday night, the residents of Berryessa Estates are either back in their homes or heading home after three days of not knowing how it would turn out, and not knowing that one of their neighbors stayed behind to take care of their pets.