Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - BY JANIE HAR

SAN FRAN­CISCO — Cal­i­for­nia fire of­fi­cials are cau­tiously op­ti­mistic af­ter dodg­ing a ma­jor light­ning storm, but they are plead­ing with res­i­dents to stay out of evac­u­a­tion zones and pre­pare for days away from home as three mas­sive San Fran­cisco Bay Area wild­fires rage on, suf­fo­cat­ing the re­gion with smoky air.

Gov. Gavin New­som said this week will be crit­i­cal as more than 14,000 fire­fight­ers bat­tle 17 ma­jor fire com­plexes, largely in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia where wild­fires have sur­rounded the city of San Fran­cisco on three sides, singe­ing coastal red­woods that have never been burned. The wild­fires, all caused by light­ning, have been burn­ing for a week.

“We are deal­ing with dif­fer­ent cli­mate con­di­tions that are pre­cip­i­tat­ing in fires the likes we haven’t seen in mod­ern recorded his­tory,” he said Mon­day.

A warn­ing about dry light­ning and gusty winds that could have sparked more fires was lifted for the San Fran­cisco Bay Area on Mon­day morn­ing, a huge re­lief to fire com­man­ders who said the weather was aid­ing their ef­forts.

But of­fi­cials warned the danger was far from over.

“It is highly dan­ger­ous in there still,” said Jonathan Cox, a deputy fire chief with the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion, or Cal Fire, of the blaze north of Santa Cruz. “We have bridges that have failed, old wooden bridges that have failed that may not ap­pear failed” to driv­ers.

Not know­ing whether her home is still stand­ing is the hard­est part right now, says Bar­bara Brandt, a Boul­der Creek res­i­dent who fled the Santa Cruz area fire.

“The last few days have been a roller coaster,” she said. “You get con­flict­ing re­ports. You don’t know what your life is go­ing to be like. We don’t know when we can go back, but we know it’s not go­ing to be for a long time.”

Gavin New­som

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