Mountain Fire 92 percent contained

IDYLLWILD, Calif. - The fight against the nearly encircled Mountain Fire was winding down today, with command of the blaze handed over to local personnel this morning and full containment expected on Friday, the U.S. Forest Service said.

The blaze was 92 percent contained as of 8:45 a.m., having scorched more than 27,500 acres of the San Bernardino National Forest since breaking out near Idyllwild 10 days ago. A U.S. Forest Service statement said the cost of fighting the fire had risen to $25.2 million.

The fire's acreage has changed little since Sunday, thanks to rain from thunderstorms over last weekend and earlier this week. The area was expected to continue drying out today, although there's a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms tonight, according to officials.

``Fire crews continue to improve (the) fireline and are extinguishing hot areas close to the fire's edge,'' a Forest Service statement said today. ``Residents and visitors may still see smoke towards the north end of the fire, due to the heavy fuels within the perimeter of the fire.''

The number of fire personnel assigned to the blaze continues to be reduced, with 146 remaining. The fire, which has been under the unified command of the Forest Service and Cal Fire, was turned over to a San Bernardino National Forest local team, officials said today.

The blaze has claimed 23 structures, including seven homes, but no major injuries have been reported.

The fire is believed to have started around 1:45 p.m. on July 15 near the junction of Highways 243 and 74. The 23 structures swallowed by the blaze were all destroyed on the first day of the fire.

The cause remains under investigation. Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, a U.S. Forest Service fire chief, said last week that the fire was determined to be ``human-caused.''

Evacuations that affected as many as 6,000 people were lifted on Sunday. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed Thursday due to fire-generated smoke, reopened Tuesday. The nearby Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area, several campgrounds, Humber Park and Pacific Crest Trail and its connecting trails remain closed.

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