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Some Lake County Residents Evacuated In Valley Fire Allowed To Return Home

CLEARLAKE (CBS SF) -- Some Lake County residents displaced by the Valley Fire were being allowed to return to their communities Friday night and Saturday, Cal Fire officials said Friday evening.

Roadblocks to the communities of Twin Lakes and Rancho Sendero were removed around 6 p.m. Friday, and the mandatory evacuation for Middletown will be lifted at noon Saturday, Cal Fire officials said.

Some roads will remain closed in the area to support the orderly return of residents to their homes, officials said.

MORE: Complete Wildfire Coverage

A mandatory evacuation order was also lifted Thursday at 4 p.m. for Berryessa Estates for residents only.

The evacuations occurred as a result of the 73,700-acre Valley Fire, which started at 1:24 p.m. Saturday in the area of Cobb in Lake County, and was still only 45 percent contained as of Friday evening.

The fire, which is burning in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, has killed at least three people so far and injured four firefighters.

At least 585 homes and hundreds of other structures have been destroyed, and at least 7,800 other residential and commercial structures remain threatened, Cal Fire officials said Friday evening.

Evacuation shelters have been opened in Calistoga, Kelseyville and Clearlake.

Two Lake County school districts are also set to reopen on Monday and a third is hoping to reopen by the end of next week, the Lake County Office of Education said Friday.

The Konocti and Kelseyville unified school districts will reopen Monday. Schools in hard-hit Middletown in south Lake County are hoping to reopen next week or by Monday Sept. 28.

The Lake County Office of Education is informing displaced families they have a right under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act to enroll their students in the area where they are currently residing.

In a letter to Middletown Unified School District families, Superintendent Catherine Stone said a number of teachers, staff, principals and families have lost their homes.

Stone said the district is trying to find a way to provide bus service into the Middletown District for people who are staying in Clearlake and Kelseyville and other areas and want their students to continue attending Middletown schools.

Teams of counselors and mental health professionals will be on campus to help students deal with the trauma of the Valley Fire, Stone said.

Stone said there is a lot of smoke, soot and ash at the Cobb and Middletown schools, but the Minnie Canyon, Coyote Valley and Middle school campuses were not heavily affected.

"We are developing plans to bring the Cobb kids and their teachers into town until Cobb reopens. Our goal is to keep everyone together," Stone said in the letter to the families.

Residents returning to their homes are urged to stay aware of current fire conditions and remain aware of hazardous conditions such as downed power lines, smoke and hot patches, hazardous chemicals and damaged structures.

Residents who need help in either removing animals that died in the fire or in locating animals that might have been rescued should contact Lake County Animal Care and Control at (707) 263-0278.

© Copyright 2015 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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