California crews hold wildfire in check, letting more residents go home

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(Reuters) – California authorities battling a massive wildfire near Yosemite National Park lifted evacuation orders on Sunday for more local residents but said firefighters may need almost two more weeks to contain the blaze fully.

The Detwiler Fire is 40 percent contained, unchanged from Saturday, after burning 76,000 acres (30,700 hectares) and 130 structures, including 63 homes, since it broke out on Monday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire.

Evacuation orders were lifted as of 12 p.m. PST for much of the historic gold rush era town of Coulterville and nearby areas as firefighters completed firelines to contain the blaze, Cal Fire said in a statement.

About two-thirds of the 5,000 people who had been ordered to leave their homes have been allowed to return, Scott McLean, a Cal Fire spokesman, said by telephone.

The almost 4,800 firefighters battling the blaze expect to contain it fully on Aug. 5, with temperatures forecast to top 100 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) this week complicating the fight, he said.

“Hopefully we’ll see it (contained) before then. We’re making pretty good progress,” McLean said.

There have been no injuries reported from the Detwiler fire, which was named for the road where it erupted. The cause is under investigation.

Yosemite National Park has remained open as the fire has burned west of it, but smoke has clouded the views of its world-famous landmarks.

The Detwiler Fire is one of 35 large fires in the United States, almost all in the West, according to the website of the National Interagency Fire Center.

One of the largest was the so-called Lodgepole Complex fire in Montana that has burned through about 200,000 acres (80,000 hectares) in a sparsely populated central region of the state. It was completely uncontained on Sunday, the fire center said.

Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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