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Mild Winds Aid Battle against Calif. Blaze

Updated at 11:25 p.m. EDT

Firefighters made progress Monday against a wildfire near a Southern California mountain town as weather turned calm and cool.

Evacuation orders remained in effect for several thousand residents of the Wrightwood area but there was little flame visible in the burn area covering 7,824 acres, or more than 12 square miles, on the east end of the San Gabriel Mountains about 40 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

"It's mostly smoldering," said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Robin Prince.

Winds were about 6 mph, down from 50 mph over the weekend, and temperatures were cool.

Higher humidity are helping in the battle against the blaze and crews have been setting backfires to get the upper hand, reports CBS News correspondent Teri Okita.

But state officials are warning residents not to let their guard down. They caution that a sudden shift or increase in the winds could bring back the flames.

Containment grew to 30 percent Monday. The fire was not expected to jump its existing perimeter unless significant new winds developed, Prince said. Nearby schools were closed Monday.

CBS News correspondent Hattie Kauffman reports that thousands of residents were under mandatory evacuation orders Monday.

Most residents appeared to have heeded warnings to leave. Three homes had been destroyed in remote canyons but none in Wrightwood.

While evacuees are hoping to return home soon the governor has declared a state of emergency for San Bernardino County...paving the way for additional firefighting resources and aid to victims, Oktia reports.

Wrightwood, which sits at an elevation of 6,000 feet and has many year-round residents, draws daytrippers to quaint eateries and is a popular kickoff point for hiking and skiing. Houses sit in rustic settings among towering pines.

The fire erupted Saturday afternoon near the community of Lytle Creek amid strong winds. Lone Pine Canyon funneled flames like a chimney northwestward toward Wrightwood. Helitankers and retardant-dropping aircraft battled the fire from above while backfires were set along the town's east edge.

The cause remained under investigation.

In Arizona, authorities lifted an evacuation order Monday morning for 64 homes that had been threatened by a wildfire near the scenic city of Williams, about 120 miles north of Phoenix. The blaze began as a prescribed burn that grew out of control and threatened the community known as the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon."

Fire officials said the fire was 20 percent contained, after scorching about 1,000 acres, or more than 1½ square miles on Bill Williams Mountain.

Despite forecasts calling for wind gusts of up to 26 mph Monday crews were able to secure the fire's perimeter, said Punky Moore, a Kaibab National Forest spokeswoman. Tuesday's forecast called for a high of 62 degrees with southeast winds between 3 and 9 mph.

"We continue to make good progress," she said.

In Arizona, strong winds kept some residents of the scenic northern Arizona city of Williams from returning to their homes Sunday as crews battled a prescribed burn that grew out of control and threatened part of the community known as the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon."

Punky Moore, a Kaibab National Forest spokeswoman, said the fire scorched about 1,000 acres, or more than 1½ square miles.

The blaze, which was burning forest undergrowth and ponderosa pines, was 10 percent contained early Monday.