The vegetation fire, dubbed the Canyon Fire 2, prompted the evacuations of more than 5,000 homes in Anaheim Hills, Orange, Orange Park Acres and Tustin on Monday. It also triggered hourslong freeway closures.
MORE: Full list of evacuation orders, road closures for Canyon Fire 2
The evacuation orders for Anaheim were lifted by 7 p.m., and many evacuation orders in Tustin and Orange were lifted at 5 p.m.
From treasured family heirlooms to boxes of important papers, returning residents unpacked after being forced to flee.
"I'm so happy to be home. It's a huge relief. We just hadn't been able to come by and see the house to see if it was still standing or if our street was in one piece," said Anaheim Hills resident Jenna Grayson.
Fire officials said about 3,500 structures continue to be threatened, but added that they stopped the forward progression of the fire by noon and expected full containment by Saturday.
PHOTOS: Canyon 2 Fire destroys homes, prompts evacuations in Orange County
Firefighters were focusing on the east edge of the fire, and more humidity and calmer Santa Ana winds gave them a chance to make some progress.
"Fire behavior specialists are all working together to come up with a plan on how we're going to attack the fire. That's really a fluid and dynamic situation," said Daron Wyatt of Anaheim Fire and Rescue.
Canyon Fire 2 was first reported around 10 a.m. Monday along the eastbound 91 Freeway near the 241 Freeway interchange in Anaheim Hills. The blaze was first reported to be around 25 acres, but it quickly exploded with the dry and windy conditions in the area.
More than 1,600 fire personnel, five air tankers, 13 helicopters and two water tenders were helping put out the fire.
At least 14 structures, including homes, have been destroyed as the wildfire spread through Orange County, sending plumes of thick, heavy smoke into the air. Twenty-two other structures were damaged by the blaze.
Firefighters worked hard to save homes but could not protect every structure as the fire raged out of control.
The damage was being assessed at Irvine Regional Park. The fire burned through dozens of horse stables and scorched the land right up to the grass.
"Well the barn -- a historical barn -- it sustained about 60 percent damage. It's compromised, it's unstable," said Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority.
Officials said all of the horses and animals from the zoo were evacuated safely. The park was used as the command post for the first Canyon Fire just two weeks ago.
One firefighter was injured during the intense battle Monday afternoon and was airlifted to UCI Medical Center for possible smoke inhalation. He is expected to be OK.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Orange County, as well as four counties in Northern California, where dozens of brush fires have killed 15 people, injured at least 100 and destroyed about 1,500 structures.
The Canyon Fire 2 comes not long after another brush fire burned about 2,600 acres at the Anaheim-Corona border in late September. This was the original Canyon Fire, which prompted dozens of evacuations in Corona.
The cause of the Canyon 2 Fire was unknown.
If you have any questions, Anaheim Fire and Rescue provided a fire information line at (714) 765-4333. For those in Orange, a non-emergency information line can be reached at (714) 744-7495.