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California residents told to prepare to be away from home for days as fires rage

More than 14,000 firefighters are battling blazes across the state.

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Fire burns in the hollow of an old-growth redwood tree in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Fire burns in the hollow of an old-growth redwood tree in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Fire burns in the hollow of an old-growth redwood tree in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

California fire officials are cautiously optimistic after dodging a major lightning storm, but authorities are pleading with residents to stay out of evacuation zones and prepare for days away from home as three massive wildfires rage on.

Governor 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.

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 historyCalifornia Governor Gavin Newsom

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

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.

It came as a huge relief to fire commanders who said the weather was aiding their efforts as firefighters pour in from out of state.

But officials warned the danger was far from over and called the fires complex and large.

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A VW Microbus sits among the wreckage from the LNU Lightning Complex fires (Noah Berger/AP)

A VW Microbus sits among the wreckage from the LNU Lightning Complex fires (Noah Berger/AP)

AP/PA Images

A VW Microbus sits among the wreckage from the LNU Lightning Complex fires (Noah Berger/AP)

They admonished residents to stay out of evacuated areas and warned looters they will be arrested if caught.

California has had more than 13,000 lightning strikes since August 15, sparking more than 600 wildfires statewide that have burned more than 1,875 square miles and resulted in seven deaths.

More than 1,200 buildings have also been destroyed although the number is bound to increase as residents are allowed back into neighbourhoods and inspectors get a better look at the destruction.

PA