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Rain slows massive Southern California wildfire

A DC-10 super air tanker makes a drop on a upper ridge line near Idyllwild, California July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
A DC-10 super air tanker makes a drop on a upper ridge line near Idyllwild, California July 19, 2013. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

By Sharon Bernstein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Heavy rains overnight helped slow a massive Southern California wildfire that had threatened the town of Idyllwild, a community about a mile above sea level known for its hiking trails, rock climbing and arts and music scene.

Evacuation orders for Idyllwild and nearby Fern Valley were lifted late Sunday morning, and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service said tourism businesses were expected to re-open by evening.

"Today the residents and business owners were able to go back home and tonight they'll open Idyllwild back up to all visitors so we can start business as usual and let people come up to that beautiful little community," spokeswoman Norma Bailey said.

The so-called Mountain Fire was 49 percent contained by Saturday night, up from 25 percent earlier in the day and 15 percent on Friday, Bailey said.

The blaze has burned across more than 27,000 acres of dry brush and timber and destroyed seven residences since it broke out last Monday.

The flames forced the evacuation of Idyllwild and nearby Fern Valley, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles, affecting about 6,000 residents, business owners and tourists, Bailey said.

At its peak, 3,478 firefighters were working to control the blaze, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Ten air tankers and 20 helicopters were also deployed in the effort.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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