(Courtesy photo)

Evacuations slowly lifted as firefighters battle wildfire in Moraga

Residents forced from their homes due to the Merrill Fire has in the hills around Moraga early Thursday morning are slowly being allowed to return to their homes, according to Moraga Orinda Fire District officials.

Around 70 of the 140 structures threatened are slowly being repopulated in the lower Sanders Ranch Road area as of 5:30 a.m., fire spokesperson Dennis Rain said. Residents on Merrill Circle are still not allowed back in their homes. Further updates on evacuations are expected around 7:30 a.m.

The fire was first reported at 12:54 a.m. near 46 Merrill Circle North and off Sanders Ranch Road, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Fire Captain George Laing said.

It burned near a ridge and burned down towards homes in a valley, where it was stopped by firefighters, Rain said.

According to Rain, it burned approximately three-quarters of a mile south of St. Mary’s College, but the university was never threatened as the blaze burned south of the campus.

Moraga police issued evacuation orders for the Sanders Ranch neighborhood. An evacuation center was setup at St. Monica’s Church at 1001 Camino Pablo.

The cause of the fire will be determined later Thursday when investigators are able to access the scene.

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