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Crews Make Major Gains On California’s Fourth-Largest Wildfire

Above: Flames from the Rim Fire sweep up along the South Flank, Aug. 30, 2013.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) -- Crews working to corral the massive wildfire searing the edge of Yosemite National Park made major gains on the blaze overnight.

The fire was 60 percent contained as of Monday morning, up from 45 percent Sunday night, according to California fire officials. The blaze also grew about 9 square miles and now covers more than 357 square miles.

Full containment is not expected until Sept. 20.

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for some south of Highway 120 and Tioga Road west of Yosemite Creek Picnic Area is closed.

Crews will continue building fire lines and burning away the fire's potential fuel sources on Monday.

The wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park has become the fourth-largest conflagration in modern California history, fire officials said Sunday as clouds and higher humidity helped crews further contain the biggest blaze in the United States this year.

The 2-week-old Rim Fire moved up a spot on the state's list of large wildfires dating back to 1932 when it grew to 348 square miles -- an area larger than the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose combined -- on Saturday, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said.

The blaze started Aug. 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest and two-thirds of the land burned since then is located there as well. In Yosemite, 94 square miles have burned. The cause remains under investigation, Baltimore said.

"Either way, if it was lightning or human-caused, they have not released any findings and we are not sure if and when that will be released," she said.

Meanwhile, the dense smoke that obscured Yosemite's majestic views for the first time on Saturday and prompted air quality warnings was starting to ease, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.

Although park officials advised visitors to avoid heavy exertion, Cobb said she has seen people outside running "and enjoying Yosemite, despite the smoke."

"The park was actually busier than I thought it would be," she said.

A 427-square-mile fire in San Diego County that killed 14 people and destroyed more than 2,800 structures a decade ago tops the list of California's largest wildfires.

The Rim Fire has claimed 111 structures, 11 of them homes, but no lives.

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