Sonora, Calif. Hundreds of residents Wednesday left their homes near Yosemite National Park as wind fanned a wildfire that was one of 32 major fires burning in the West.
Six of the most active fires had burned more than 53,000 acres in northern California, but in Oregon and Washington rain helped firefighters get the upper hand.
The 32 major fires counted Wednesday afternoon were down from 42 the day before, said Rob Kopack of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
"It's still very dicey in the Northwest right now. But there has been some progress," Kopack said. "California has not had relief from weather."
The fire outside Yosemite had burned 11,500 acres and closed some roads leading into the park. More than 400 residents fled their homes and four homes burned. Investigators believe the fire was caused by arson.
Many residents went to Red Cross shelters.
"It's probably the worst fire we've ever seen, and I've been here 42 years," said Joan Tune, a Red Cross volunteer and resident of the threatened town of Coulterville. She called the fire "monstrous ... a great ball of black and green and white smoke."
Tatti Morganelli grabbed a few clothes and some medicine before heading to a shelter set up at the Sonora fairgrounds.
"That is the price you pay for living in the mountains," said Morganelli, one of 29 people sleeping at the shelter Wednesday night.
About 80 miles northwest, a 3,800-acre wildfire kept about 50 evacuees in a Red Cross shelter set up in a high school.
The major fires active Wednesday throughout the West had blackened 331,000 acres roughly half the size of the state of Rhode Island, Kopack said.
A wave of cool air and rain moved into western Washington and Oregon and helped firefighters gain ground on fires there.
But in front of the rain, high winds fanned a 73,000-acre fire in northeastern Washington. About 60 homes in the fire's path were saved by air tanker water drops.
Near the mountain resort town of Leavenworth, firefighters were still trying to encircle a 7,200-acre complex of fires and extinguish hot spots.