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Wildfire near Yosemite slows; anxious evacuees return home

Crews make progress against wildfire burning toward Yosemite; some residents return home

Residents living near Yosemite National Park were returning to their homes Wednesday as firefighters continued to make progress in their battle against a wildfire that has burned more than 600 acres.

More than 2,000 firefighters battling the blaze were aided in part by higher humidity and lower winds that allowed them to slow the fire’s crawl toward the park's south entrance, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Junction fire had prompted authorities on Monday to issue more than 13,000 evacuation orders. As of Tuesday night, the blaze was 35% contained and downgraded in size to 612 acres, officials said.

Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted for an area along California 41 and all areas west of the highway, except Road 620, according to Cal Fire.

The fire destroyed eight structures and injured two firefighters, and continues to threaten up to 500 homes, Cal Fire reported. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

Despite the improving picture, some residents were holding their breath Tuesday as they waited for roads to reopen.

Orville McCollom, 81, stood at the window of a friend's hilltop house overlooking the area where he lives -- or lived -- he said. His Yosemite Pines Drive home was in the burn area.

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."

For the latest wildfire news, follow @DianaMarcum and @JosephSerna

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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