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Southern California wildfire evacuees allowed to return home

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Five days after an explosive wildfire in Southern California drove thousands from their homes, authorities lifted all evacuation orders on Sunday to allow them to return.

About 82,000 people were ordered to leave their properties Tuesday when the fire broke out 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Most of those residents are returning to find their homes intact, though not all. A preliminary damage assessment found 105 homes and 216 outbuildings destroyed across the rural, mountainous terrain where large swaths of open land have been turned black.

“This fire did not go through a dense community, like some fires do,” fire spokesman Costa Dillon said Sunday. “Almost all of this area is sparsely populated.”

The once-fast moving and erratic blaze that burned nearly 58 square miles was 85 percent contained.

A prolonged drought has transformed swaths of California into tinderboxes, ready to ignite. Six other wildfires were burning in the state, including one in San Luis Obispo County that forced the closure of the historic Hearst Castle on Saturday. It remained closed Sunday.

That fire has destroyed 34 homes and burned 43 square miles since it began August 13. It remained 35 percent contained. Fire spokeswoman Jaime Garrett said the fire was growing in the opposite direction of the Hearst Castle. The castle is a popular tourist attraction and houses a large art collection that belonged to media magnate William Randolph Hearst.

In rural Santa Barbara County, a 33-square-mile wildfire that forced the evacuation of two campgrounds was 20 percent contained.

In the southern Sierra Nevada, another blaze feeding on dense timber in Sequoia National Forest forced the evacuation of several tiny hamlets.

In Northern California, fire crews were gaining control Sunday on an arson fire that destroyed 189 homes. Officials said the 6-square-mile fire in Lower Lake was 95 percent contained.

A nearly monthlong blaze burning near California’s scenic Big Sur is not expected to be fully contained until the end of September. The fire has destroyed 57 homes and charred 133 square miles, Cal Fire said. It was 60 percent contained.


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