IMAGE: FIRE HOSED DOWN
Ric Francis  /  AP
Firefighters struggled Monday to contain the blaze near Sierra Madre, Calif.
updated 4/29/2008 2:25:09 PM ET 2008-04-29T18:25:09

Lower temperatures and increased manpower on Tuesday allowed firefighters to tame much of a wildfire that had gotten perilously close to dozens of homes and led hundreds of people to evacuate.

The fire in the rugged San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles was 57 percent contained early Tuesday after covering 538 acres, or less than a square mile.

Most of the more than 1,000 people evacuated from their homes had been allowed to return and public schools in the community of about 11,000 residents were reopening Tuesday. No homes have been lost in Sierra Madre, 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

A cool front moved into the area after three days of temperatures in the 90s. Tuesday’s highs were expected to stay in the 70s. Humidity had increased and there was almost no wind Tuesday morning.

Flames moved close to homes early Monday but firefighters stood their ground and turned the flames back.

More than 1,050 firefighters were expected to be on fire lines Tuesday, up from 700 on Monday, said Ed Gililland of the U.S. Forest Service.

Four firefighters suffered minor injuries, authorities said. One small outbuilding was destroyed.

The cause of the blaze, which broke out Saturday, remained under investigation.

Wedding party airlifted out
The blaze stranded 50 wedding party guests at a ranger station from Saturday until they were airlifted out by helicopter Sunday afternoon. It took five helicopter trips from the ranger’s station to the parking area where the wedding party’s cars were. The party then was escorted out by road.

Late last year, strong winds, high temperatures and parched brush after a record drought were blamed for spreading a series of blazes from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border that destroyed thousands of buildings and drove hundreds of thousands of Californians from their homes.

Elsewhere, crews in central New Mexico had declared 95 percent containment on a blaze that has burned nine weekend or summer homes and several outbuildings. The fire blackened 4,832 acres, or 7.5 square miles. Officials at one point urged a voluntary evacuation of the communities of Manzano and Torreon, but few people heeded the call.

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