Crews Make Progress On Large Southern California Wildfire

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An air tanker drops retardant as the Maria Fire approaches Santa Paula, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. According to Ventura County Fire Department, the blaze has scorched more than 8,000 acres and destroyed at least two structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Authorities lifted evacuation orders for a farm community Saturday as firefighters make progress on a large wildfire in Southern California that continues to threaten about 2,500 homes and buildings.

Ventura County officials allowed an unknown number of residents in Somis to return home Saturday morning after firefighters contained 20% of the Maria Fire, which has burned nearly 15 square miles (38 square kilometers) and forced nearly 11,000 people to evacuate.

While fire activity subsided overnight, winds and skin-cracking low humidity were expected to enter their fourth day Saturday and make another difficult day for firefighters. Moreover, an unexpected area of clouds moved in from the south, threatening to bring lightning strikes and wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph (48 kph) over the region, the National Weather Service said.

Police in Santa Monica urged beachgoers to seek shelter indoors after lightning was reported over the city.

Crews battled to keep the flames away from orchards and farms in the rural area. Three buildings were destroyed.

The fire erupted on a hilltop northwest of Los Angeles on Thursday during what had been expected to be the tail end of gusty Santa Ana winds.

The cause was under investigation but there was a troubling possibility that an electrical line might have been involved — as such lines have been at other recent fires.

(AP)