SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Milder-than-expected weather on Saturday gave fire crews hope that they could rein in a series of northern California wildfires that have destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands of residents to evacuate.

Thousands of people stayed away from their homes in the Butte County town of Paradise, but some were allowed to return Saturday to assess damage. At least 74 homes were destroyed and another 20 were damaged in the Paradise area, about 90 miles north of Sacramento.

The priority for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection shifted to assessing damage from the blaze that scorched about 36 square miles, said Cal Fire spokesman Joshpae White. The blaze was 45 percent contained after a blustery couple of days, and White said crews expected to have it controlled by Monday.

"With the cooler temperatures and the lack of winds we were able to make the fire burn on our terms," White said Saturday. "It's mellowed out considerably."

Five firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the blaze.

About 9,000 residents had fled the area at the fire's peak Friday. Officials did not know how many had returned home Saturday.