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Firefighters close to containing half of Station fire

  • Story Highlights
  • Humidity has helped firefighters in southern California get a handle the blaze
  • More than 20 firefighters reportedly injured in Station Fire; two died earlier in crash
  • Blaze encroached on San Gabriel Wilderness Area in Angeles National Forest
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- An increase in humidity on Thursday has helped firefighters in southern California get a handle on the massive fire that has charred nearly 145,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes.

Residents stand on their roof Tuesday as a wildfire burns near their home in Glendale, California.

Firefighters prepare to defend a historic observatory atop Mount Wilson on Wednesday near Pasadena, California.

Firefighters have contained 38 percent of the Station fire, which has been burning north of Los Angeles for more than a week, fire officials said Thursday. They are making progress, particularly on the west side of the fire, but the blaze is still producing hot spots, including one that forced the evacuation of about 25 residents early Thursday.

Families in 11 homes were awoken at around 4 a.m. and given three hours to leave their homes near the Dillon Divide community.

Authorities are still trying to determine what caused the fire in Angeles National Forest. Despite reports that it was "human-caused" -- either accidentally or intentionally -- other officials insisted that the cause of the fire is under investigation and natural sources have not been ruled out.

"That information is not validated; that's why we're investigating," Angeles National Forest supervisor Jody Noiren said Wednesday.

Thousands of anxious Southern California residents have been displaced by the Station fire that had burned 144,743 acres by Thursday. Residents have fled from 10,000 homes along the edges of the Angeles Forest since the fire started on August 26. However, the majority of evacuees were allowed back into their homes by Wednesday. Video Watch as some homeowners say they're not ready to leave »

U.S. Forest Service fire chief Mike Dietrich characterized Wednesday as a "good day," as firefighters continued to increase their control over the massive blaze.

"We're fighting for every foot of containment we can get on this fire," Dietrich said.

He said firefighters have made progress controlling the northern and western parameters of the fire, but the top priority is to keep the southeastern corner of the fire away from areas along Interstate 210, including Pasadena, Arcadia and Sierra Madre. The blaze is headed toward the San Gabriel Wilderness Area of the Angeles forest. The San Gabriel represents the eastern edge of the fire, he said.

Nearly all of the fire was in forest land and the nearby foothill communities, including La Canada-Flintridge, La Crescenta and Acton.

"This is a very complicated situation, and it continues to be complicated as it moves east," Dietrich said.

Beth Halaas sifted through the ashes of her family's charred home in Los Angeles County, trying to find something to salvage.

"It's stuff. Hold on to some of it for traditions. But you've got to remember it's just stuff," she said on CNN's "Campbell Brown."

Noel and Marta Rincon had to evacuate their home in Tujunga, on the western side of the fire. Fire was actively burning in the Little Tujunga canyon area, according to fire officials.

"I thought that we were losing our home," Noel Rincon said of the residence where he was born and the couple raised its family.

When a Sky Crane helicopter doused the flames before they could reach the structure, the two were visibly relieved.

"It's very scary," Marta Rincon said, "but our captain over here keeps assuring us our house is very savable and that we are going to be fine." Video Watch how residents are trying to save homes »

The fire has destroyed 64 homes, three commercial properties and 49 outdoor structures, authorities said. Photo See photos of the wildfire »

The state has spent about $27 million so far fighting the fire in the Angeles National Forest, Dietrich said. They expect to have the blaze fully contained by September 15.

Earlier, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the state's budget woes wouldn't affect fire fighting.

"I've made it clear that even though we have a budget crunch and we have an economic crisis and we just solved a $23 billion deficit, we will always have the money available to fight the fires because public safety is our No. 1 priority," Schwarzenegger said.

The governor said he insisted that the state budget he signed in July have a $500 million reserve for emergencies such as fires. California has had 5,000 blazes so far this year, he said.

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He said 21 firefighters have been injured battling the Station fire, in addition to the two killed Sunday in a vehicular crash trying to escape fast-moving flames.

While temperatures remain high, the humidity level increased on Wednesday and Thursday, a boon to the firefighting efforts. Firefighters could get another break if temperatures cool off on Friday as expected.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report

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