LA Times: He Wouldn’t Evacuate, Then Used Facebook Live To Broadcast Firestorm In His Hometown

"With the wine country gripped by the deadliest string of wildfires in California history, residents of the Berryessa Highlands in Napa County have struggled to get real-time information about their small hamlet.

They’ve come to rely on Evan Kilkus, Associate Editor of the Lake Berryessa News. While many heeded the evacuation order as the Atlas Peak fire swept through, Kilkus, 34, refused to leave. Instead, he turned into a one-man news team for his neighbors."

Read full story here...

A note from Evan:

All of the fans of Lake Berryessa already know that the Lake Berryessa News is here for you. This time it was less about helping Californian's have fun, and more simply about helping residents stay calm and informed. We are always here to help no matter the circumstances, as we Love The Lake, and all the people that make it a great community!

If you would like to donate a few bucks to help local families that lost everything, please go to this GoFundMe page (link below) and leave a small donation to show the residents that the community is here for them. 

See Evan’s stories of our displaced neighbors at:


Napa Berryessa Wildfire Relief Fund

Capell Valley burned
Burned hill and plane

A thank you from Evan Kilkus… 

Hello Everyone. Thank you all very much for all the generous donations. Today is Tuesday, October 17th, and here we are 1 week later and the destruction, heartbreak, and stress is very clear. Fortunately firefighters were able to confront the Atlas Fire head on from multiple angles and they saved hundreds of homes in Wooden Valley, Gordon Valley, Circle Oaks, Long Horn Ridge, Capell Valley, Turtle Rock, the Highlands, and beyond. 

Thousands of us are so appreciative we have our homes that words cannot express our gratitude. Despite the tremendous success, the fast moving fire did take a few homes in our area. We want to show those residents, new and veteran, that we as a community are here for them. 

Please consider making a donation, small or not small, and 100% of these donations will go to people in our region who lost everything. Thank you for your contribution, I know it will mean the world to these neighbors to know they have our support. We will announce the recipients later this week.

If you wish to write a check instead of using GoFundMe make it out to Evan Kilkus. He will deposit it into the main account. Send it to Evan Kilkus, 1515 Headlands Drive, Napa, CA, 94558. Hopefully mail service will be restored this week.

Retardant plane drop edited-1


Atlas Fire Tuesday 1 PM Update: No Major Fire Activity 

No Major Fire Activity in the Atlas Fire Area. From CAL Fire: "Firefighters continue to strengthen perimeter control lines, provide structure defense and engage in tactical patrol. As some residents are allowed to return to their homes, please drive carefully as emergency personnel are still working throughout the fire area.” 

HWY 121 is closed for up to a few more days between Napa and Wooden Valley Rd. All other roads are open. 

 As of 6 AM today the Atlas Fire was 51,064 acres, and 77% contained. 360 Structures were destroyed, and were 55 damaged. A total of 3,370 personnel worked on this fire. Light winds are blowing smoke into the Lake Berryessa region from the Nunns Fire, which is currently burning West of St. Helena. 


Gordon Valley Fire Department

A simply amazing video! Try to put yourself in the firefighters’ place and see what you feel. Most of us Berryessa Highlands residents have travelled this road to Fairfield often and can recognize the area. Coincidentally, Chief James George is also my excellent design engineer for my house remodel. 

This video from several days ago shows how much fire was burning all around Wooden Valley Rd. It was a quickly growing situation, but firefighters defended all the houses and prevented the fire from growing towards Fairfield, Vacaville, and Lake Berryessa. Thank you firefighters!!!

Video Taken in Engine 22 on Wooden Valley Road 

This was recorded when we went back to check on a house we had already defended. We performed bump and run structure defense. This is where we quickly knock down a fire as it hits a house and then quickly go to the next house getting hit by fire to defend it - while moving with the fire front. We didn't have time to mop up so we kept going back to check on houses we already defended between the fire hitting new houses. Chief George was on the hill above directing the engines from house to house to make sure every house got defended at the right time.


For those of you who wonder why we couldn’t get to Napa from Lake Berryessa during the fire!

Huether studio edited-1


Evacuation Order Lifted for Circle Oaks and Wooden Valley 

NAPA – Monday, October 16th, the Mandatory Evacuation Order affecting residents in the Circle Oaks and Wooden Valley Road has been lifted. Access to these areas is via Sage Canyon Road (SR 128), or via Wooden Valley Road as it opens.  For repopulation of Wooden Valley, access is also available from Suisun Valley Road in Solano County.
The following routes are currently closed:

  • Monticello Road, SR 121 between Vichy Avenue in Napa and Wooden Valley Road


Napa County lifts evacuations at Berryessa Highlands

The Mandatory Evacuation Order affecting residents in the Berryessa Highlands Community was lifted at 2 p.m. Monday, Napa County announced.

The order covered Highway 128 from Silverado Trail to the Napa County line at Monticello Dam. 

Access to Berryessa Highlands is via Sage Canyon Road or from Winters area from Highway 128.

The following routes remain closed:

- All of Monticello Road, Highway 121 (“The Corners”) south to Wooden Valley Road and beyond to Vichy Avenue in Napa.

- All of Wooden Valley Road



Berryessa Fire Update: Sunday, Oct.15, 3 PM

No return to the Berryessa Highlands, Capell Valley, or Circle Oaks yet. Maybe tomorrow.


Evacuation will NOT be lifted today for the Highlands or the Corners - Evan Kilkus

I just spoke with Supervisor Pedroza and the combined decision has been made by all agencies that they will not be ready to lift the evacuation for the Highlands today. Tomorrow is likely, but as they say, as conditions permit (county/region wide). And as we now see, with a 70,000 acre fire, and several other fires totaling over 200,000 acres, containment takes long, and as many are saying, it's scary stuff so better safe than sorry. I did see active small fire a few times today, and it is breezy, so a chance of problems is not good enough.

121 and Wooden Wooden Valley Rd will be closed for an extended period of several days or more as there are hundreds of half burnt trees along roads on those routes and many need to be dealt with before safe access is granted.


Berryessa Fire Update: Sunday, Oct. 15, 1:15 PM

Things are continuing to improve. PG&E is inspecting the power lines in the Highlands. Hopefully more news about power restoration soon.


Sunday Noon Update from Evan Kilkus in the Berryessa Highlands...

Hey all,

So here's what I've got. Still waiting to hear otherwise, but CHP tells me they have been told the Highlands evacuation will NOT be lifted today. 150,000 acres has burned around Napa, and there is still a huge plume of smoke coming from West Napa county.

So as long as hazard is still remotely present here, they will keep us out. This can possibly change, but I would book another night at your hotel.

Sunday from Highlands


Berryessa Fire Update Sunday, Oct.15, 8 AM

Fire is under control. Power is slowly coming back. Residents waiting for permission to return home.

This is Peter Kilkus. I've been living in motels in Davis with my computer since Tuesday night and relaying Evan's posts and translating them to YouTube and the Lake Berryessa News web site and our Lake Berryessa News Facebook page. I know what it feels like to be a refugee!


Bill Scholer in Japan Salutes Napa Firefighters

Many Berryessa Highlands residents will remember Bill and Karla Scholer who were residents of Rimrock Road in the Berryessa Highlands for many years. In this YouTube video posted yesterday he sings his song Napalachia which he wrote for Lake Berryessa..

See the full video story of Napalachia with the song and Bill's cartoons from the Lake Berryessa News at:



Two Napa County Volunteer Fire Sub-Stations Open in Eastern Napa County Neighborhoods

By Evan Kilkus

Two new Napa County volunteer fire sub-stations opened in Eastern Napa County neighborhoods are anticipated to improve response times and possibly  lower homeowners' insurance rates.

Pedroza speaks

Pope Valley Volunteer Fire Sub-Station 220, and Capell Valley Volunteer Fire Sub-Station 214, right in the middle of the Berryessa Estates and the Berryessa Highlands neighborhoods, hosted ribbon cutting ceremonies this September and are ready to serve the public.

214 group

Berryessa Highlands Station 214 Crew with Supervisors Belia Ramos and Alfredo Pedroza

The stations are simple metal buildings with bathrooms, and most important, a fire engine.  Each engine carries 750 gallons of water,  thousands of feet of fire hose, and basic medical supplies.

Berryessa Estates

Berryessa Estates Station 220

These two additional stations will help the residents and visitors in all of Eastern Napa County, everyone from Wooden Valley to Pope Valley, and the Monticello Dam to the back roads of Knoxville, by decreasing response times and increasing the number of people and vehicles responding to a medical or fire emergency.

Ribbon cutting

Berryessa Highlands Station 214 Ribbon Cutting

The two neighborhoods  currently have trouble getting affordable home owner's insurance as they are rated “unprotected” by the Insurance Services Office since there were no fire stations within  five miles. 

With these new stations in place, Napa County Fire/CAL Fire will push to get the insurance companies to recognize the stations.  The fact that both Pope Valley and Capell Valley Volunteer Fire Departments have such a high response rate, close to 100%, will be crucial to help  improve the rating for the two neighborhoods. Residents hope to see an impact on insurance coverage in time - hopefully within a year or two.

Berryessa Estates has about 180 homes, and the Berryessa Highlands has about 350 homes. 

Many of these homes are occupied year round although some (a smaller number than in the past) are vacation homes. With the growing population and need for protection from wildfire or help in the event of a house fire, residents are very pleased to see the new fire station.

Volunteer Firefighters, Napa County/Cal Fire Chiefs, and Napa County Supervisors were all on hand to open the stations to residents last month. Congressman Mike Thompson presented both stations with American Flags that flew over The Capital Building in Washington, DC for a day. (See photo below.)

Supervisor Sandy

Local resident Richard Wilson donated a pet oxygen mask kit to Station 214. One of these "WagN" devices was used in the Berryessa area in recent years, and it worked to save the life of a cat.

In time lockers and more gear will be added to the stations, but more volunteers are needed to put the lockers to use.  If you or a friend or family member might be interested in joining, contact your local station to see how you can help. It is important to note that the main stations, Stations 20 & 14, are always fully equipped with three different types of trucks, just a few miles down the road.

Pope Valley Engine


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Lake Level as of 10/4/17

The lake is now at 431.3 feet - 8.7 feet below Glory Hole - another 4 inch drop this week. Last year at this time the lake was at 399.1 feet - 40.9 feet below Glory Hole!

The last time the lake was at 440 feet was May 10, 2017. The average decrease in lake level has been 0.7 inches per day or about 5 inches per week.

Lake level May-Oct 2017

Water temperature has dropped to about 70 degrees.

Water Temp 092417


It’s not your imagination, this has been a very hot summer with most of July and August above 90 degrees and 31 days from mid-June to early September at or above 100 degrees.

Temperature at Dam 2017 edited-2
Pope Canyon Sep2017a


Napa County Releases Lake Berryessa Request for Information and Interest (RFII)

Another important milestone in the potential rebirth of Lake Berryessa has been achieved. Napa County has issued a Request for Information and Interest (RFII) to solicit potential concessionaires for five developable sites at the lake.

Download Report here...


RFII cover


Lake Berryessa, Napa County, California: A World Class Destination

Lake Berryessa Request for Information and Interest

RFII Number: CEO091701

Issued by: Napa County Executive Office

Date of Issue: September 26, 2017

 Napa County Executive Office is issuing this Request for Information and Interest (RFII) in order to solicit potential concessionaires for five developable sites at Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California. Appropriate respondents will subsequently be invited to respond to a Request for Proposal (RFP).

Emphasis in the past has been on boating and camping, but a much wider variety of activities seem appropriate for the future. The surrounding region is one of the most prosperous in the nation. Participation rates in all types of outdoor recreation activities are much higher than average. Despite these circumstances, the supply of high quality resort developments in lake-oriented destinations greatly lags demand. Lake Berryessa could represent one of the most untapped opportunities for quality lake-oriented resort development in all of California.

Land around Lake Berryessa is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). Due the expiration of concession contracts, five of the areas were closed by USBR in 2009. Napa County may now enter into a Managing Partner Agreement (MPA) with USBR to once again assume control of the five areas. The distribution of this RFII is the initial step in potentially finding appropriate developers and operators for one or more of the five areas.

Through this RFII, Napa County hopes to solicit input from resort developers and concessionaires that will be used to create the final framework for the MPA and subsequent RFP. Specifically, the purpose of this RFII is to:

1. Gauge developer and concessions management interest in the five recreation-resort areas at Lake Berryessa;

2. Identify potential opportunities and challenges within the proposed area(s); and

3. Provide a baseline for development of an MPA and RFP.


·       November 20, 2017: RFII Submittals Due by 12:00 PM PST

·       January, 2018: MPA Authorization

·       February, 2018: RFP Release

·       April, 2018: RFP Due

·       Spring/Summer 2018: Concessionaire Selection and Negotiations


 Market Opportunities

Based on a recent consumer survey of more than 3,000 people familiar with Lake Berryessa, the unmet needs (and opportunities) include:

Lodging accommodations in hotels, motels, rental cabins, full-service RV parks, glamping, conference centers and timeshare resorts.

Boating facilities including launch ramps, boat slips, storage facilities, houseboat and other watercraft rentals.

Sports and recreation attractions like equestrian stables, riding trails, clubhouse, fitness and spa facilities, sporting clays, golf course and seaplane base.

Entertainment attractions that could include an outdoor concert amphitheater, wedding venues, special events like boat races, car rallies and fishing tournaments, wine tasting and Napa Valley shuttle and Lake Berryessa boat cruises.

Visitor services such as convenience and grocery stores, fuel outlets (for cars and boats) restaurants, bars and water taxis.

The huge but unsatisfied recreational demand is evident. For example, there are 185,000 pleasure boats registered within the 13-county primary market area (PMA) but fewer than 16,000 boat slips available in a wider 20 county area surrounding Lake Berryessa. Similarly, there are almost 30,000 recreational vehicles registered in the PMA but only 306 lakefront campsites - with full RV hookups – in the 20 surrounding counties.

Concession Areas

There are five unique concession sites available for immediate resort and recreation facility development;

·       Putah Canyon: 3.6 miles shoreline; 168 acres

·       Monticello Shores: 2.8 miles shoreline; 149 acres

·       Berryessa Point: 1.3 miles shoreline; 55 acres

·       Spanish Flat: 2.1 miles shoreline; 216 acres

·       Steele Canyon: 2.8 miles shoreline; 137 acres

·       Total: 12.6 miles shoreline; 726 acres

Development is fully supported by officials of Napa County who recognize a wider variety of land uses and facilities are required to maximize economic benefits and enjoyment by outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

When all concession areas were open, Lake Berryessa annually attracted as many as 1.8 million visitors annually. As with most water-oriented recreation destinations, usage peaks in the summer months. It is anticipated that visitor counts could be more balanced once a wider array of services, activities and accommodations are available.

Lake Berryessa Attractions and Activities

 In addition to boating and camping opportunities, there are numerous other attractions and activities at Lake Berryessa and its environs. Some include:

1. Close proximity to, and shared identity with, one of the most recognized tourist destinations in the country - Napa Valley. Napa County has a rapidly growing tourism industry, with 3.54 million visitors in 2016, up 20 percent from just four years ago. Some of the highest year-round occupancy rates and room rates in the country. Downtown Napa is rapidly becoming a major tourist destination of its own, with large new supply of hotels, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues - and less than an 45 minutes travel to Lake Berryessa.

2. Napa Valley has more than 500 wineries, geothermal springs, boutique shops, fine restaurants, eight golf courses and spectacular scenery.

3. Attractions and activities at Lake Berryessa complement those in Napa Valley, e.g., boating, fishing, extensive nature and other types of trails, etc. These complementary uses are attractive both to residents of Napa County and others throughout the primary marketing area.

4. Many intriguing potential opportunities for recreational attractions and activities that do not exist elsewhere in Napa County and/or are significantly under-supplied in the primary marketing area. Examples include conference facilities, golf, wedding venues and outdoor musical performance venues.

5. Some of the best lake fishing in the entire state. Swimming in the many protected coves and inlets. Quiet areas for non-motor activities, such as kayaking and canoeing. Bird watching and wildlife viewing.

6. Extensive hiking, mountain biking and walking trails, with many more possible, and large nearby public land holdings, accessible for hiking, camping and a wide variety of other outdoor recreational activities. Included are 330,780 acres in the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, Cache Creek Wilderness, Cedar Roughs Wilderness, Knoxville Wildlife Area, Knoxville Recreation Area, Lake Berryessa Wildlife Area and Quail Ridge Natural Reserve.

Lake Berryessa Development Advantages

 Napa County, like most prime resort destinations in California, is a challenging place to pursue new development. Land prices are extremely high; properly zoned sites are scarce; the re-zoning, General Plan amendment and environmental impact report processes are lengthy and expensive; and the threat of litigation from environmental groups and others is high. These “barriers to entry” often result in years and years of effort before proper entitlements are obtained, if ever.

Several important advantages exist, however, at Lake Berryessa that should greatly facilitate development of the concession areas, as listed below. Proper regulations will still be imposed by Napa County and USBR, but less time-consuming than normal.

1. USBR has completed detailed, but preliminary, development plans for the five areas. Environmental impact statements have been completed for the plans to “the 60 percent design level.” To the extent that concessionaires’ development plans are substantially compatible with USBR’s preliminary development plans, the required environmental impact assessment may be accelerated.

2. No re-zoning or General Plan amendments are required.

3. Environmental compliance statements will be required, but a head start has already been made by USBR. This is especially true the more that proposed development aligns with USBR’s preliminary recommendations.

4. Proper development of the concession areas is fully supported by public officials of Napa County, who have pledged to facilitate the entitlement process.

5. It is recognized by Napa County and USBR that a wider collection of land uses and activities will be required in the future in order to maximize economic benefits to the County and enjoyment by today’s outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Creativity will be encouraged.

6. The actual term of each concession contract will be based on the business model. The business model will support justification of a term beyond the standard 25 years where applicable. The County has requested discussion of a 55 year term plus one 10 year extension for development that requires a significant infrastructure investment.

7. In recognition of the cost of building new infrastructure on leased land, Napa County may be willing to offer a variety of financial incentives for appropriate developments and operations.

8. Private land holdings surrounding Lake Berryessa are extensive. Some of this land could be available for related development.

9. Napa County will assume the role of Managing Partner Agency for all concession areas. This includes being the primary reviewer of applications and proposed development plans. The local government will be able to act more expediently than the more removed federal government.

10. Dedication of County staff support to facilitate development process.




The California Boater Card Is Coming!

CalBoaterCard2017 edited-1

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, California is phasing in by age the requirement that residents who operate a motorized vessel on state waterways will be required to carry the California Boater Card. 

 See full story here...


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LBMap & Info Summer 2017


October, 2017

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Lake Berryessa Fills and Glory Hole Spills

The Video History

This amazing series of Lake Berryessa News Drone videos by Evan Kilkus documents the 45 foot rise of Lake Berryessa in 2017.

It was the second largest annual increase in the history of the lake.

It was also the second highest level the lake has reached in its 58 year history.

The lake has only spilled into Glory Hole 26 times in those 58 years. Also the rainfall total (47.1 inches as of 5/8/17) is the highest in 20 years.

The first video shows how low the lake was 2 years ago. You should watch it before the others to get some perspective on the amazing rise of the lake in 2017.


Full lake level history 2015
Lake Levels 2006 to 031217 edited-1



Berryessa Valley and the Town of Monticello Historical Photos and Videos from before Lake Berryessa covered it.

Berryessa Valley photo

Thanks to Carol Fitzpatrick for creating the Berryessa Valley Exhibit at the Spanish Flat Village Center described in the first video.



1958 - 2017

by Peter Kilkus

Download a PDF of the history timeline here.

How Could the Government Have Done Something So Stupid?

Many people ask me about the history of the process that led to the present situation at Lake Berryessa. When I explain what happened most become incredulous and can't believe the government could have done something so stupid. "How could they have gotten away with that?" they exclaim.

The Bureau of Reclamation destroyed family recreation at Lake Berryessa for a generation of children. Here's an interview I did in 2010, three years after the interview below with Pat Monaghan and just after Pensus had been given the contract for 5 resorts. As we all know Pensus was subsequently kicked out in 2012.        

Here's a 2007 TV interview with Pat Monaghan, cofounder of Task Force 7 at Lake Berryessa, to give you some historical insight. Those of you who remember Pete Lucero will recognize his description of what we called "The Big Lie" - which turned into the "Epic Fail".


Some Interesting Past Stories

Lake Berryessa 1971: Controversy Begins (Oakland Tribune)

Napa County and the Bureau of Reclamation Consider Working Together to Rebuild Lake Berryessa

Milestone Achieved! A Positive Report on the Potential Future Rebirth of Lake Berryessa

Floating Native American Casino Coming to Lake Berryessa

Reclamation's Draft Environmental Assessment For Lake Berryessa

My First Fishing Trip on Lake Berryessa

The Destruction of Steele Park Resort

Analysis of the Creation of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument - the Dumbest National Monument in the United States

Final Report on ICON A5 Crash at Lake Berryessa

Napa County Wildfire Awareness Resources

Is His Name Smokey Bear or Smokey THE Bear?

The California Boater Card Is Coming!

Adventure Water Drinking - The New Outdoor Sport

Lake Berryessa History: The Summer of Love (1967) versus The Summers of Chaos (1998-1999) 

Rural Code Enforcement in Napa County

Exciting New Game Fishing Opportunity at Lake Berryessa

Rattlesnakes: Friend or Enemy – or just a primal fear?

Two Napa County Volunteer Fire Sub-Stations Open


Special Publications

Final Ragatz Report (75MB PDF)

Ragatz Summary Recommendations (75 KB PDF)


Conspiracy Theory Or Automatic Pilot: The Economic Roots Of Environmental Destruction        

By Peter F. Kilkus 

Download PDF of this report (2 MB)


The Amazing Foods of Chef Neiman Marxist

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The Winters Express

*****                       © Peter Kilkus 2017