Evacuation Orders Lifted for Neverland Ranch, Santa Barbara County

Firefighters kept the largest of several California wildfires from advancing over a ridge and spreading toward about 50 homes in rural Santa Barbara County.

Evacuation orders were lifted for all but five of the homes after crews set backfires to hold the huge blaze from pushing toward tiny communities in the Central Coast's Santa Ynez Valley.

Residents of several hundred homes, including Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, had been asked to evacuate as a wildfire in the mountains of Santa Barbara's wine country threatened to shift in the wind.

"People are happy to go back home, and the fire in that area is starting to blow out," said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Eric Neitzel.

The blaze burning since July 4 in parts of Los Padres National Forest and the San Rafael Wilderness has grown to 28,000 acres, or nearly 44 square miles.

The fire, which was 35 percent contained, has charred 27,600 acres of dry and brittle wilderness since it started July 4. The steep, rocky terrain has complicated efforts to surround the blaze. Firefighters also have had to contend with spotty communications deep in the canyons.

"The problem is it's a wilderness fire. There's no access," said Mike Ferris, a spokesman for the National Incident Management Organization, which is overseeing firefighting efforts.

More than 2,000 firefighters were battling the fire in the San Rafael Wilderness, which was closed to visitors. Twenty aircraft and three dozen bulldozers were fighting the blaze, which was ignited by sparks from a grinding machine being used to repair water pipes.

In Northern California, a wildfire near the Oregon border threatened more than 300 homes in and around Happy Camp. The fire in the Klamath National Forest started on July 10 and had burned more than 11 square miles by Tuesday, but authorities said improving weather conditions were aiding firefighters as a light drizzle started to fall.

Nearly 1,200 firefighters were working to contain the fire, which was about 15 percent surrounded.

In eastern Oregon, a rapidly growing wildfire 5 miles north of the ranching town of Monument grew to 36 square miles, threatening about 20 homes, said Jeree Mills, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. The blaze was sparked by lightning Friday.

In Reno, Nev., firefighters hoped to reinforce fire lines near hundreds of homes before 35 mph winds were predicted to pick up on later Tuesday.

"We've got concerns this afternoon," said fire spokesman Steve Frady.

Homeowners were briefly evacuated Monday after the fire sparked up, but it burned toward U.S. Forest Service land and the Mount Rose wilderness area.

"Firefighters did a tremendous job in holding the fire from the residences," Frady said.

Mike Trudell, manager of the Caughlin Ranch Homeowners Association, said the fire might have started near a construction site, but he didn't know exactly where or the cause.

A lightning-caused blaze in north-central Washington's Okanogan County had grown to nearly 25 square miles Tuesday, destroyed one building and threatened about 50 homes. Residents of 10 of those homes were ordered to evacuate. The fire was about 15 percent contained.

In Montana, a wildfire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness grew to nearly 11 square miles and burned within two miles of an area with about 65 summer homes, fire spokesman Jack de Golia said. Residents were told they may have to leave on short notice.