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Sherrie and Jim Fico walk their property line on Oak Hill Lane in unincorporated Contra Costa County Clayton, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. They evacuated Monday night and returned on Tuesday, as the Morgan Fire came right up to their fence. The couple's home where they have lived for 21 years was spared. The fire began on Sunday, Sept. 8, and by Tuesday, more than 3,200 acres had burned and containment was at 45 percent. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

CLAYTON -- Jim and Sherrie Fico hustled through their home Sunday night, collecting photographs, computer hard drives, personal documents and any other valuables they could think of.

A wildfire was spreading quickly on Mount Diablo, and their home on Oak Hill Lane was in harm's way. But the couple had no idea how close to the danger they were until Sherrie took a peek out into her front yard.

"The fire was out our front door," Sherrie Fico said. "It was the scariest thing I've ever seen."

The Ficos were back at their home Tuesday as firefighters, aided by cooler temperatures and fresh legs, curtailed the fire's advancement and expressed hope that the worst was behind them.

Cal Fire reported Tuesday night that the fire was 60 percent contained. A total of 1,413 fire personnel have responded to aid in containing the blaze.

"If today goes like last night and the past 24 hours have gone, we can see this fire being stopped very soon," said Cal Fire spokeswoman Tina Rose. "We have the resources we need to fight it, and we seem to be getting cooperation from the weather, especially the lack of winds. We are not out of the woods yet, but we are optimistic."

Fire officials said 3,243 acres had burned, a figure down from an estimated 3,718 acres that Cal Fire announced Monday. Authorities said the new figure was the result of new mapping done Monday night.


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Relief provided by approximately 700 new firefighters who took over for 250 who worked the first 30-36 hours of the blaze helped curtail the blaze's advancement as did cooler temperatures that first were felt early Tuesday, Williams said.

Temperatures, which were in the mid- to high 90s in most Bay Area locales over the weekend, did not top 90 degrees anywhere on Tuesday.

Four firefighters have been injured fighting what's being called the Morgan Fire but none seriously, Williams said. The fire, which originated on Morgan Territory Road near Marsh Creek Road, has been burning since about 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Crews on Tuesday still were trying to establish about 5 miles of fire lines, Rose said, and firefighters and air support units were awaiting word on whether they were needed to fight the Clover fire in Shasta County. That fire, southwest of Redding, had burned 30 structures, mostly homes, and more than 60,000 acres through Tuesday morning.

The Ficos and a handful of other residents on Oak Hill Lane, about 1,300 feet up Mt. Diablo, began returning to their residences Tuesday morning. Evacuation orders issued to about 75 homes on Sunday were lifted Tuesday evening and all roads were also re-opened..

"This never happened (before)," said Sherrie Fico, who has lived in the home for 21 years. "Now you look out, it's a war zone."

Jim Fico fought the blaze with a garden hose, and he and his wife stayed in the home Sunday, bolstered by the large presence of firefighters. They left Monday and were allowed to return Tuesday.

"He saw the worst of it," Marin County firefighter Will Corbett said. "He may have made more of a difference in saving his house than we did by a long shot."

Cleon Winter, 67, of Antioch, and Kent Swindell, 66, of Concord, two members of the 61-year-old Diablo Bowmen Archery Club, returned to find the target range at the club gutted. The clubhouse was saved, but $35,000 in 3-D lifelike targets were lost.

"You could almost see a grown man cry," Winter said.

The fire has been moving up the mountain since Sunday, but Rose said fire crews are stationed near the structures atop the peak. She said the building housing the beacon atop Mt. Diablo that's lit every Dec. 7 to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor is safe for now. The beacon light itself was removed in June to be restored.

"They are guarding that (structure) like a mama bear guards her cubs," Rose said.

A large plume of smoke that could be seen through much of the Bay Area on Sunday and Monday seemed to dissipate Tuesday. A spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said a smoke advisory would remain in effect until the fire is out or until the smoke dissipates.

"What we're finding is that most of the smoke is staying above (layers) in the air where it might be more harmful," spokesman Tom Flannigan said. "But we just want people to be aware that they should take precautions should they find themselves in places where the smoke seems heavy."

Fire officials still have not said what has caused the Morgan fire.

Containment is expected Friday.

Staff writer Katie Nelson contributed to this report. Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH. Follow David DeBolt at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.