Evacuees Return Home as Firefighters Make Progress Against Enormous California Wildfire

Residents were able Friday to return to homes in Central California communities that had been threatened by a gigantic wildfire for much of the summer.

Firefighters, aided by rising humidity and cooler weather, made progress Thursday in battling the second-largest wildfire in modern California history.

They lifted evacuation warnings for several communities northwest of Los Angeles.

The blaze, dubbed the Zaca Fire, has burned 232,449 acres or about 363 square miles — but continued to burn in wilderness rather than toward communities.

Containment was put at 83 percent early Friday.

Backfires were set along Highway 33 in Los Padres National Forest to destroy dense chaparral that has fueled the fire for nearly two months as it has snaked southeast through mountain ranges with peaks topping 5,000 feet.

On the north, where the fire was most active, crews worked to cut eight miles of fireline.

However, there still was a potential of the fire making a sudden surge, as it did repeatedly in recent weeks.

The blaze was about 17 miles north of the Ventura County community of Ojai and 10 miles east of Montecito and Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County.

Despite its size, the fire hasn't destroyed any homes.

Sparks from equipment being used to repair a water pipe ignited the blaze on July 4.

Nearly 2,600 firefighters, aided by aircraft, were fighting the fire. Costs have topped $99 million.

The largest fire in modern California history was the 2003 Cedar Fire near San Diego, which burned more than 273,000 acres, destroyed 4,847 structures and killed 15 people.