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DISASTERS

Crews make gains on 2 California wildfires that prompted evacuations

  • APTOPIX California Wildfires-1.jpg

    The remains of a burned home lie in the Foresta community in Yosemite National Park in California on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Fire crews gained ground Tuesday on two of the largest wildfires in California, lifting evacuation orders for about half the homes in the path of a blaze in Yosemite and redeploying firefighters battling another fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento. (AP Photo/Al Golub) (The Associated Press)

  • California Wildfires-2.jpg

    A burned home and pickup truck lie in the Foresta community in Yosemite National Park in California on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Fire crews gained ground Tuesday on two of the largest wildfires in California, lifting evacuation orders for about half the homes in the path of a blaze in Yosemite National Park and redeploying firefighters battling another fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento. (AP Photo/Al Golub) (The Associated Press)

  • 5c9e66c2b720531d5b0f6a706700b30f.jpg

    A plane drops fire retardant as firefighters battle a blaze in El Portal, Calif., near Yosemite National Park on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Firefighters in the state are also battling another wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento. (AP Photo/Al Golub) (The Associated Press)

  • California Wildfires-4.jpg

    This image released by the Madera County Sheriff's Department shows a bear running through smoke in the Sierra foothills in Sierra National Forest, Calif, on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Fire crews gained ground Tuesday on two of the largest wildfires in California, lifting evacuation orders for about half the homes in the path of a blaze in Yosemite National Park and redeploying firefighters battling another fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento. (AP Photo/Madera County Sheriff's Department) (The Associated Press)

  • California Wildfires-5.jpg

    Rick Ogden who lost his home in the Sand Fire, waits for fire updates from officials at the evacuation center in Shingle Springs, Calif., on Monday, July 28, 2014. Their home of 12 years was completely destroyed at 2pm on Saturday.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater) (The Associated Press)

Fire crews have gained ground on two of the largest wildfires in California, lifting evacuation orders for about half the homes in the path of a blaze in Yosemite National Park and redeploying firefighters battling another fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento.

The fire in the foothills, which forced the evacuation of more than 400 homes, was 85 percent contained Tuesday after burning 6 ½ square miles.

Crews discovered six more homes destroyed by the fire, bringing the total to 19, state fire Battalion Chief Scott McLean said. The fire, which began Friday, also has claimed 48 outbuildings.

Some firefighters were released Monday and more were expected to be taken off the blaze Tuesday. The total fire force was down to around 1,600, about 300 fewer firefighters than Sunday.

The Yosemite fire about 100 miles away, had burned through 5 ½ square miles and was 34 percent contained. It forced the evacuation of about 100 homes after it began on Saturday.

Residents of Old El Portal were permitted to return home Tuesday. About 45 homes in the community of Foresta remained evacuated, park fire information spokeswoman Jennifer Wuchner said.

Both fires grew rapidly over the weekend before being brought under control. Their spread underscored the tinder-dry conditions resulting from California's third year of drought.

Residents of the Sierra foothills fire said they were forced to evacuate quickly, and some vowed to keep a list of items to take with them in case of another blaze.

Laurel Fulton, a 66-year-old evacuee, had to leave behind an obstinate horse.

"When the sheriff is banging on your window yelling, 'Get out now, get out now,' you don't have much of a choice," Fulton said.

Fulton said the fire was so hot and so fast, the sand along a nearby river burned to glass. She managed to rescue four dogs, a cat and her other horse. She said her neighbor stayed behind and has been reporting that her horse is OK.

Fire crews also were battling a 3-square-mile blaze in the Sierra National Forest about 60 miles northeast of Fresno that shut down some campgrounds and was threatening 28 structures, some of them homes.

___

Thanawala reported from San Francisco. AP writer Scott Smith in Fresno contributed to this report.

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