(AP NEWS) – Wildfires raged through Northern California on Thursday, threatening thousands of homes and blackening the skies near San Francisco as crews struggled to surround them despite steep terrain and blistering heat.
The fires, many caused by lightning and sometimes pushed by strong winds, had burned hundreds of thousands of acres as they chewed through brushland, rural areas, canyon country and dense forest to the north, east and south of San Francisco. Fires also burned in the Sierra Nevada and Southern California wild lands.
In addition to about two dozen major blazes, small fires kept erupting, though most were quickly stopped.
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In central California, a pilot on a water dropping mission in western Fresno County died Wednesday morning when his helicopter crashed.