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Latest wildfire near Yosemite calms after early scares, some evacuees start to return

California Wildfires-1.jpg

A chimney stands amid the remains of a burnt structure near Oakhurst, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. A wildfire that forced about 1,000 people from their homes in the foothills near Yosemite National Park held steady Tuesday as humidity and calmer winds aided the fight against the second blaze around the park in recent weeks. (AP Photo/Scott Smith) (The Associated Press)

A wildfire that gave a scare to a community near Yosemite National Park after whose early surges has been tamed by firefighters, and some of the more than 1,000 people who evacuated their homes have returned.

"We're not seeing the fire expand like we thought," Madera County Sheriff John Anderson said Tuesday after crews had the fire 35 percent contained amid higher humidity and lower wind speeds.

Eight structures were destroyed as the fire burned nearly 1 square mile in the foothills near Yosemite. Officials revised earlier estimates that it had spanned about twice as much ground.

The flames erupted Monday near Oakhurst, a community of several thousand about 16 miles from a Yosemite entrance, forcing more than 1,000 people to evacuate and thousands more to prepare to leave. Some residents were allowed to go home, but sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart could not provide an estimate of how many.

A road leading visitors to the park reopened Tuesday, and the park itself remained unaffected by the blaze.

Evacuated residents in Oakhurst said they had braced for the worst.

"There is nothing you can do when a fire is raging," said Clement Williams, 67. "You just have to flee. It's a real sinking feeling."

Williams and his wife, Gretchen Williams, 63, were trying to get information about the fire and their home from officials. They spent the night at a nearby hotel.

Oakhurst was smoky, and businesses downtown were closed as the fire burned about a mile away.

The fire comes amid California's third straight year of drought, creating tinder-dry conditions that have significantly increased the fire danger around the state and sent firefighters scrambling seemingly nonstop from blaze to blaze.

Meanwhile, firefighters on Tuesday stopped the growth of a blaze some 50 miles northeast of Bakersfield.

The wildfire burning near Lake Isabella in Kern County that grew exponentially Monday was 5 percent contained Tuesday after scorching some 5 square miles, or 3,367 acres.

Some structures burned, but it wasn't immediately clear how many or if any were homes.

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