updated 10/3/2006 12:30:56 PM ET 2006-10-03T16:30:56

Firefighters battling a giant wildfire focused on putting out remaining hot spots Tuesday after fully containing the blaze nearly a month after it was started by someone burning debris.

The 162,702-acre Day Fire, which has cost more than $73 million to fight, was still a long way from being stamped out, said Peter Frenzen, a spokesman for Los Padres National Forest. The blaze was contained late Monday but continued to burn within fire lines.

"This fire won't be put out until winter weather puts it out. It's too large an area, and it's burning in difficult, steep rugged terrain," he said.

Large numbers of firefighters were being sent home from the blaze, which since being ignited on Labor Day has scorched more than 250 square miles. A team of hydrology, soil and ecology experts were expected to arrive in the coming days to assess the burn area and determine how to prepare it for winter storms and potential landslides.

Dry and sometimes windy conditions that helped spread the fire in recent weeks gave way Sunday to unexpectedly wet weather that brought scattered showers over the fire area in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles.

The blaze, the fifth-largest in state history, demanded most of the region's resources and came as firefighters prepared for the height of the Southern California wildfire season.

Now firefighters can "shift gears and start looking at rehab issues and going through and making sure that everything is mopped up and out," said fire spokesman Charlie Johnson.

One home was destroyed and another damaged. The blaze also burned a handful of structures including barns, sheds, an unoccupied cabin and a camping trailer.

There were only a handful of minor injuries, the most serious coming Sunday when a helicopter crashed while picking up fire retardant and water. Two pilots escaped with bruises and bumps.

In the Northwest, a 15-square-mile grass fire along the Columbia River in Washington was no longer an imminent danger to homes Monday. It destroyed two outbuildings during the weekend and sent thick, brown smoke drifting into the town of Bridgeport, Wash.

The fire, about seven miles from town, came within about a half-mile of homes, officials said. Firefighters had completed lines around about half the fire and expect to have it contained by Wednesday, a dispatcher said Monday. Investigators believe it was started by a downed power line.

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