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Wildfire in California closed part of Pacific Coast Highway

VENTURA, Calif. -- A 1,238-acre wildfire in coastal Southern California is now 60 percent contained and evacuation orders have been lifted for dozens of homes.

The fire began late Friday northwest of the city of Ventura and immediately reached Pacific Coast Highway, also known as the 101. It is a major route connecting Northern and Southern California.

The fire, fueled by dry timber and winds that reached 50 mph, closed Pacific Coast Highway in both directions on a roughly 15-mile northwest between state highways 150 and 33, forcing holiday motorists to narrow backcountry roads.

"We had multiple motorists stranded with the flames impinging on the highway," said Ventura County Fire Battalion Chief Fred Burris earlier. "We had motorists making U-turns going opposing directions on the freeway with other motorists, not realizing the situation."

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A burned Pacific Coast Highway sign stands during a wildfire in the Solimar Beach area of Ventura County, California December 26, 2015. © Patrick Fallon / Reuters, REUTERS

The Ventura County Fire Department says some 400 firefighters made great progress against the wind-driven blaze on Saturday and have stopped its forward spread.

Winds also pushed the blaze downhill toward coastal homes, showering them with sparks.

About 50 homes were ordered evacuated in Solimar Beach community and another 30 nearby were under voluntary evacuation. However, no homes burned and the evacuations were lifted by nightfall.

One state park campground remains closed.

Earlier, a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 101 was reopened.

Authorities also have reopened a stretch of the scenic Pacific Coast Highway.

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