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Cloudy skies, higher humidity help Lake fire containment effort

Cloudy skies, higher humidity help Lake fire containment effort
Smoke fills the sky above Burns Canyon Road as the Lake fire burns Thursday near Rimrock. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Forest Service officials say cloudy skies and higher humidity are giving firefighters the upper hand against the 30,500-acre wildfire burning in the San Bernardino National Forest.

By early Saturday evening, the Lake fire, which erupted on June 17, was 50% contained, according to an update posted by the U.S. Forest Service.

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"We've got a good handle on it now," said Fire Service spokeswoman Diann McGlothen, adding that the shift has led to the reopening of Highway 38 and the lifting of most evacuation orders, except for Burns Canyon.

The fire has caused more than $20 million in damages.

The cloudy, humid conditions helped fire crews increase containment on the fire burning between Onyx Summit and Rimrock, McGlothen said.

"There's going to be some sprinkling, but just a little," she said. "But every little bit helps."

Things could change by Sunday. That is when the National Weather Service is predicting a small chance of lightning without precipitation, known as dry lightning.

"It is one of the biggest starters of fires -- other than man-made ones -- in the West," said Brett Albright, a meteorologist with the weather service. "It is a high concern anytime we see dry air and thunderstorms that are not producing enough precipitation."

Albright emphasized that the chance of dry lightning and the risk it brings is "minimal, but there's still a small threat."

Thunderstorms with heavy rain are expected to arrive in the burn areas in the next few days, increasing a chance of flooding and mudslides.

Albright said it was too early to tell when the most significant rain would fall.

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