Some residents return home as fire near Yosemite slows

Firefighters have significantly slowed the spread of a California forest fire near Yosemite National Park, allowing officials to lift some evacuation orders for residents of remote mountain communities.

By Wednesday, the Oak Fire in Mariposa County had churned through more than 29 square miles (75 square kilometers) of tinder-dry trees and brush, with 36% containment, Cal Fire said.

At least 100 houses and other structures have been destroyed.

Fire spokesperson Chris Garcia said around 3,800 people were allowed to return to their homes starting Tuesday. About 2,200 residents remain under evacuation orders.

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Ground crews with air support got a break from increased humidity and lower temperatures as monsoonal moisture moved through the Sierra Nevada foothills early this week.

"They’re definitely making good progress," Garcia said of firefighters working in steep, rugged terrain.

Officials were investigating the cause of the fire sparked last Friday southwest of the park, near the town of Midpines.

California has experienced increasingly larger and deadlier wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years. Scientists have said weather will continue to be more extreme and wildfires more frequent, destructive and unpredictable.