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Saddle Fire evacuations lifted in Butte County

Butte County residents forced from their homes by the Saddle Fire were to be allowed to return Wednesday evening.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced that evacuations would be lifted at 6 p.m. The fire, which began about 4:30 p.m. Monday southeast of Paradise and west of Concow was reported 50 percent contained with 850 acres burned late Wednesday afternoon.

Cal Fire officials said the fire had not increased in size in the last 24 hours and firefighters had made significant progress in strengthening containment lines, although access in steep terrain remained a challenge.

A total of 408 fire personnel were on scene Wednesday. Equipment included 30 fire engines, seven bulldozers, 12 water tenders and five helicopters.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Officials said five fires started on Pentz Road near Lime Saddle Road on Monday afternoon and rapidly grew in size. The fires burned on both sides of the west branch of the Feather River, destroying three structures and threatening 300 others.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy