Thousands of southern Alberta residents forced out by a large grass fire returned home Tuesday after local officials declared a state of emergency over.

Fire crews worked through the night to douse the flames near Lethbridge and Coalhurst. They are now using thermal imaging to locate the hot spots.

About 4,000 people were ordered to leave their homes Monday, but by Tuesday afternoon local officials had lifted the state of emergency, allowing residents to return.

Lethbridge fire Chief Brian Cornforth said crews still have a one- or two-day operation ahead of them.

"It's going to be a long haul for us," said Cornforth.

"We have over 10 different agencies; there are over 100 crews in the ground."

More than 5,000 hectares of land were burnt, but fire crews were able to contain the damage mostly to land between Lethbridge and Coalhurst.

"The field looks like a field of birthday candles with the burning fence posts," said Cornforth.

No homes in the Lethbridge County were destroyed, but at least one home on the Blood reserve, where the fire erupted at around 2 p.m. MT Monday, has been gutted by flames.

There is no word yet on the state of livestock in the county.

Winds are expected to pick up to about 50 km/h, which could change crews plans with a moment’s notice. Monday afternoon winds reached upwards of 100 km/h.

Coalhurst, Alberta

It will be 48 hours before power is restored in some areas.

Another fire just south of Lethbridge, near Milk River, prompted residents there to evacuate.

People there were being told that they could return home around 7 a.m. MT.