Thousands of residents who were forced to flee from a 3,300-acre wildfire in a central Oregon resort area were allowed to return to their homes, while weary firefighters struggled to surround the blaze that destroyed 20 homes.

Temperatures climbed toward 100 degrees Monday, hampering efforts to combat the fire, which was about half-contained. Fire bosses said they did not expect to completely contain the blaze until Tuesday and hoped to have it under control by late Thursday.More than 2,000 homes were evacuated, and an estimated 5,000 residents and visitors were forced to flee during the weekend as the fire raced over 6 square miles in a residential and resort area southwest of Bend, state Department of Forestry spokesman Doug Decker said.

Twenty homes, some worth up to $300,000, burned down in three subdivisions scattered among scenic lodgepole pines in central Oregon's high desert country, about 120 miles southeast of Portland. Authorities had believed 28 homes were lost but determined the other eight were sheds or barns.

"The folks that owned the destroyed homes were allowed back in with some professional escorts, such as the Red Cross, so they can deal with their loss," said Don Ferguson, another state forestry spokesman.

Roadblocks were posted to keep out sightseers and the general public, Ferguson said. There were no injuries, but damage was estimated at more than $5 million.

About 1,100 firefighters were working the fire with 65 fire engines, 14 bulldozers, six helicopters and six air tankers.

Millworker Ron Beckingham and his wife, Pat, were among the first to return to their home.

"It looked like kind of a ghost town," Beckingham said. "It did look a little spooky, but we're just happy to be back in here."

Pat Beckingham said they were forced to leave the house in a mess and with dishes in the sink when they fled Saturday night, but considering what others lost, she said, "It was absolutely wonderful to think that we had a home to come to."

In terms of residential losses, it was the state's most destructive wildfire since 1936, when a blaze roared through Bandon on the southern Oregon coast, killing 11 people and destroying 750 homes and businesses.

Myra Lee, administrator of the state Emergency Management Division, said the fire could be "sort of a forerunner of problems to come" in Oregon, as housing subdivisions push farther and farther into forested areas.

"As people continue to build in those areas, these problems are going to increase," Lee said. "I hope we don't get into the kind of thing California has experienced." Hundreds of homes in Santa Barbara, Calif., were destroyed by a wildfire earlier this year.

Terry Marsha of the National Weather Service predicted more lightning strikes - a common cause of forest fires - in much of central Oregon late in the week.

"It's going to be a pretty hairy week," he said.