Thunderstorms have rumbled over northern California again but the fire-ravaged region around San Francisco Bay was largely spared from a new onslaught of incendiary lightning strikes like those that sparked hundreds of blazes last week.
Firefighting crews already stretched to their limits had braced for another potentially catastrophic spate of dry lightning on Sunday and Monday, as forecasters for the National Weather Service predicted.
But rather than the thousands of lightning strikes that were feared, the region saw a few hundred, while cloudy skies, cooler temperatures and rising humidity provided a welcome respite that helped fire crews consolidate some gains they made over the weekend.
Still, the squall of monster-sized wildfires - including the second- and third-largest on record in California - remained far from under control, with some 240,000 people under evacuation orders or warnings across the state.
Much of northern California, from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Pacific Coast, remained under a "red flag" alert for extreme fire hazards on Monday.
Close to 300 lightning strikes sparked 10 blazes on Sunday night into Monday morning, and more "sleeper fires" were likely smouldering as yet undiscovered in areas shrouded by dense smoke, Governor Gavin Newsom said.
"We are in a different climate and we are dealing with different climate conditions that are precipitating fires the likes of which we have not seen in modern recorded history," Newsom told a news briefing on Monday.
Wildfires ignited by more than 13,000 lightning strikes all across northern and central California since August 15 have killed at least seven people and destroyed over 1200 homes and other structures.
Collectively, the blazes have charred more than 485,620 hectares, a landscape more than triple the size of Los Angeles.
"We are essentially living in a megafire era," CalFire Santa Clara Unit Chief Jake Hess told reporters, noting that the state has endured four of the five largest wildfires in its history during the past three years.
Evacuees began returning on Monday to homes and vineyards torched by the LNU Complex wildfire.
Smoke from fires created unhealthy air quality for a large swath of northern California and drifted as far away as Kansas.
More than 14,000 firefighters, some who have been forced to work grueling 72-hour shifts, were assigned to the wildfires, with 91 fire crews travelling from seven states and National Guard troops arriving from four states, Newsom said.