Authorities say thousands of evacuees are returning home early Thursday after fire crews contained a burning propane rail tanker and ended the threat of a major explosion.

Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Whitt says firefighters allowed the propane rail tanker burn itself out after determining the car held less propane than previously thought.

He said that the blaze from the tanker burned out before midnight, but then crews reignited it to allow vapors caught in the tank to also burn away.

But he says the threat of a catastrophic blast no longer exists and an evacuation order for Lincoln was lifted just after midnight.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 homes in the northern California city of 40,000 people had been evacuated, and more than 6,000 students missed their first days of classes.