UPPER LAKE, Calif. — Firefighters battling massive blazes throughout Northern California had some success keeping flames away from heavily populated areas Thursday and made progress containing a blaze that already destroyed more than 1,000 homes.
One of the fires moved deeper into the Mendocino National Forest, "an area with some hunting cabins and some private property but no towns," Lake County Sheriff Lt. Corey Paulich said.
Still, just a month into the budget year, California has already spent more than one-quarter of its annual fire budget, at least $125 million, state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Mike Mohler said.
Following years of drought and a summer of record-breaking heat, immense tracts of forests, chaparral and grasslands have become tinder that allows even a small spark to explode into a devouring blaze, authorities said.
"We're being surprised. Every year is teaching the fire authorities new lessons," Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters Wednesday. "We're in uncharted territory."
More than 13,000 firefighters are battling fires with the help of crews from as far away as Florida, but Brown repeated predictions from fire officials that California can expect a future of devastating fires, in part because of climate change.
"People are doing everything they can, but nature is very powerful and we're not on the side of nature," Brown said.
The largest blaze burned in the Redding area, north of Sacramento. Six people, including two firefighters, have died, and the fire has destroyed 1,060 homes and nearly 500 other buildings, including barns and warehouses, making it the sixth most destructive wildfire in California history, officials said.
Tens of thousands of people remain under evacuation orders. However, authorities who had feared more casualties said all those who had been reported missing have been located.
The fire, which is nearly twice the size of Sacramento, was only partially contained after more than a week.
"Unstable conditions, shifting winds, steep terrain and dry fuels continue to challenge firefighters," a state fire update warned, noting that 35-mph wind gusts were expected on ridgetops that could whip up the flames.
At least three new fires erupted Wednesday in the Sierra Nevada region, including a blaze in Placer County that had consumed 1 1/2 square miles (4 square kilometers) of land.
North and east of San Francisco, two wildfires that began Tuesday near the communities of Covelo and Yuba City burned through grass, brush and timberlands. The fire near Covelo prompted evacuation orders for about 60 homes in the farming and ranching area on the edge of the Mendocino National Forest.
Twin fires in Mendocino and Lake counties had burned 14 homes and threatened 12,000 more.
A 100-square-mile (259-square-kilometer) fire near Yosemite National Park prompted evacuation orders for the community of Wawona inside the park, which has fewer than 200 residents.
Yosemite Valley and other areas of the park have been closed to tourists since July 25 because of heavy smoke from the fire, which has burned nearly 100 square miles (259 square kilometers) and is only partially contained.