Rain helps firefighters make gains on SoCal blaze

IDYLLWILD, Calif. (AP) — Heavy rain has helped firefighters make substantial gains against a week-old wildfire that’s burned some 42 square miles in the mountains near Palm Springs, Calif.

The area received an inch and a half of rain Sunday, and fire crews now have the blaze 68 percent contained.

Some 6,000 people have been forced to evacuate the towns that dot the San Jacinto Mountains. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has now lifted evacuation orders for the communities of Idyllwild, Fern Valley and Pine Cove, as well as several smaller communities.

Despite the rain and the expanded containment, the fire is far from extinguished. The thunderstorm that helped douse the flames also brought erratic winds and the threat of flooding, all hazardous conditions for fire crews.

Authorities have said the fire was human-caused, but they have not said whether it was accidental or intentional.

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APPHOTO CARIE101: Firefighters take cover at Lake Hemet Market as Louie Delegge walks around under his sun shade in the heavy rains on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Thousands of people were allowed to return to their homes in Southern California mountain communities near Palm Springs on Sunday, after firefighters aided by heavy rain made substantial progress against a week-old wildfire that has burned across 42 square miles and destroyed seven homes. (AP Photo/The Press-Enterprise, Terry Pierson) (21 Jul 2013)

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APPHOTO CAPAD107: Off-duty firefighting personnel staged at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway’s Mountain Station nap on the floor before going back on shift Sunday, July 21, 2013. The station sits at 8,516 ft. elevation in the mountains above Palm Springs, Calif. A division of personnel are based at the tramway and some have hiked out to other areas as the Mountain Fire continues for a seventh day. At its closest point, a small portion of the fire reached just over a half mile away from the tram. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Crystal Chatham) (21 Jul 2013)

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APPHOTO CARIE103: Community Emergency Response Team workers sign residents returning to Idyllwild, Calif., along Highway 243 after the evacuation order was rescinded in the areas affected by the Mountain Fire on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Thousands of people were allowed to return to their homes in Southern California mountain communities near Palm Springs on Sunday, after firefighters aided by heavy rain made substantial progress against a week-old wildfire that has burned across 42 square miles and destroyed seven homes. (AP Photo/The Press-Enterprise, Terry Pierson) (21 Jul 2013)

<<APPHOTO CARIE103 (07/21/13)££

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