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Change in Weather Helps Firefighters in Battle Against Huge California Blaze

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The latest on the wildfires in California (all times local):

7:50 a.m.

A fire official says fire crews aided by cooler weather and diminishing winds have managed to slow the spread of a massive Northern California blaze that has killed at least 48 people.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean said Wednesday the blaze has charred 210 square miles and that it is one-third contained.

He says strong winds have subsided and humidity is up, helping more than 5,600 firefighters.

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McLean says the effort to control the fire that leveled the town of Paradise “is looking really good at the moment.”

He says aircraft, including 21 helicopters, are helping in the effort to halt the fire that destroyed 7,600 homes.

But McLean says smoke is heavy and low to the ground, and that could affect visibility and hamper their efforts.

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7:40 a.m.

Gusty Santa Ana winds continue to fan Southern California wildfires but forecasters say a change in the weather is coming.

The fire west of Los Angeles that killed two people flared again before sunrise Wednesday but the flames are devouring vegetation in rugged, uninhabited mountains.

The National Weather Service says winds will weaken and critical fire danger warnings will expire by evening.

Some evacuations remain in place but thousands of residents have been allowed to return home. An estimated 435 buildings have been counted as destroyed so far, and assessments are continuing.

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The fire has scorched more than 152 square miles since last week and is 47 percent contained.

A new fire erupted late Tuesday in the Fontana area of San Bernardino County, but firefighters reported good progress overnight, holding the blaze to 147 acres.

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12 a.m.

A message board at a shelter for the many people who fled California’s deadliest wildfire is filled with photos of the missing, as well as pleas for any information about relatives and friends.

Authorities on Tuesday reported six more fatalities from the Northern California blaze, bringing the total number of dead so far to 48. They haven’t disclosed the total number still missing, but earlier in the week that figure was more than 200.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said a list of the missing would be released soon and that 100 National Guard troops would help teams already looking for remains.

As authorities increased efforts, people waited for any word on those still not found.

Greg Gibson was one of the people searching the message board Tuesday, hoping to find information about his neighbors. They’ve been reported missing, but he doesn’t know if they tried to escape or hesitated a few minutes longer than he did before fleeing Paradise, the town of 27,000 which was consumed last Thursday. About 7,700 homes were destroyed.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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