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Firefighters close to containing Tahoe fire

Weather helps firefighters make progress, fire 70% contained.

BY P.J. HELLER | SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. | June 28, 2007

Firefighters made major gains Thursday on a wildfire that has been raging near the popular resort community of South Lake Tahoe, reporting that the blaze was 70 percent contained.

Full containment was still projected for Tuesday, one day before the Fourth of July holiday and a planned massive fireworks display in the community that typically attracts 100,000 visitors.

Firefighters were able to gain the upper hand on the blaze after strong winds forecast for the past two days failed to materialize. Winds were expected to remain moderate on Friday. If so, about 500 of the more than 2,100 firefighters fighting the blaze were expected to be released.

Three injuries have been reported.

Some residents were allowed to return to their homes Thursday, and others who were under a mandatory evacuation order were expected to be allowed to return beginning Friday morning.

The fire, which began Sunday, has destroyed 254 homes and severely damaged at least 26 others, according to the latest report. The fire has burned 3,100 acres. The exact cause was under investigation but was reported to be human-caused.

Meantime, at least one faith-based organization has announced it was gearing up to help the community. Several other relief efforts were under way by local churches as well as individuals in the community.

Don Hargis of Baptist Men's Ministries for the California convention said he hoped to mobilize three or four teams to go into the area by July 7, according to Baptist Press. He said he planned to bring in a shower/laundry unit, two cleanup units and a front-end skid loader. Chainsaw crews will also be brought in to cut down trees that have burned.

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