Firefighters continue to gain on California wildfires


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California was free of extreme weather warnings Monday but firefighters working to contain massive wildfires were cautioned about increasingly warm and dry conditions heading toward the Labor Day weekend.

The two largest fires, east and north of San Francisco Bay, were at least 60% surrounded, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. A third big fire, burning to the south in the Santa Cruz Mountains region, was 39% surrounded.

The progress has allowed thousands of people to return home but nearly 40,000 remain under evacuation orders, Cal Fire said.

Those fires and others began with a massive electrical storm on Aug. 15 that unleashed thousands of lightning bolts.

Hundreds of wildfires ignited in that time period have burned more than 2,218 square miles (5,747 square kilometers).

There have been seven deaths and more than 2,800 structures destroyed, many of them homes.

A Red Flag warning in Humboldt and Del Norte counties expired at late morning. Air quality alerts due to smoke went into effect for the Lake County air basin and in parts of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.