Firefighters were making progress Tuesday night in their battle to stop a wildfire in the Sierra foothills near the south entrance to Yosemite National Park.
The Junction fire, which had prompted authorities on Monday to issue more than 13,000 evacuation orders, was 35% contained and downgraded in size to 612 acres, state forestry officials said.
By Tuesday night, mandatory evacuation orders had been lifted for state California 41 and all areas west of the highway, except Road 620, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The cause of the blaze was under investigation.
As more than 2,000 firefighters continued to battle the blaze, life was returning to areas that had been evacuated as flames raced across parched vegetation.
But for Orville McCollom, 81, uncertainty was far from over.
His Yosemite Pines Drive home was in the burn area, off a stretch of road expected to remain closed at least overnight.
He and his wife Emma moved to the Sierra foothills 22 years ago from Los Angeles. They wanted a country life.
Emma died last October.
McCollom stood at the window of a friend's hilltop house overlooking the area where he lives - or lived - he said.
He scanned for smoke, but a hill blocked his view.
"I'm within a mile of my house," he said, "and I still don't know if it's there or not."
In Oakhurst, Michelle Perira was on the phone with a friend who had a telescope. The 18-year-old Perira also wondered whether her home was still standing.
"They can't tell for sure, " she told her grandmother and boyfriend in the hotel room they were sharing with a baby, four dogs and two cats. "But they think they see a roof."
"We're sitting here waiting," she said. "Our house could be there or our house could be gone."
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