LOCAL CALIFORNIA

The death toll from the fires has hit 41, and officials believe that number will rise as searchers make their way through the neighborhoods in Santa Rosa that burned down as well as mountain communities across wine country.

What you need to know:

  • Officials said Monday they are making good progress on the massive Tubbs and Atlas fires, which are both more than 60% contained.
  • Crews have also achieved 50% containment on the Nuns fire, but a smaller adjacent blaze near the Oakmont neighborhood of Santa Rosa continues to cause trouble.
  • Mandatory evacuation orders for Calistoga residents east of the Tubbs fire and locals living south of Lake Curry east of the Atlas fire have been lifted. Orders remain in place for several communities to the Atlas fire's north, east and south flanks.
  • Over the next few days, weather conditions are expected to improve significantly.
  • Northern California fires have scorched more than 220,000 acres since they began Oct. 8. As many as 10,000 firefighters from throughout California and surrounding states have battled the fires around the clock.

Overnight winds were milder than expected, keeping Atlas fire's growth to a minimum

The 43,000-acre Atlas fire had only moderate growth overnight thanks in part to winds that were milder than expected Wednesday night. They pushed the fire mostly to the north and east, good news for Napa residents who were warned Wednesday afternoon to be prepared to leave the eastern sections of town closest to the fire. 

The weaker winds also aided firefighters on the Partrick fire, but the danger of it pushing into Sonoma and Vineburg remained Thursday.

Firefighters were warned that critical “red flag” conditions remain, with strong winds, low humidity and “extremely receptive fuels,” according to Thursday morning's Cal Fire incident management plan for the Atlas and neighboring fires.

Forecasted gusts of up to 40 mph are expected to ease Thursday afternoon, diminishing the risk of a runaway fire line.

The latest Cal Fire maps show some small containment lines and completed bulldozer breaks at key locations in the wine country fires.

The Atlas fire stretches from Lake Berryessa in the north to the southern flank of Napa, but a control line has been established across the bottom of Atlas Peak Road, near where firefighters first engaged the now-sprawling ridge fire Sunday night.

The goal is to keep the fire north of Jameson Canyon and east of Highway 29, the critical north/south road that bisects Napa and is a key evacuation route for the populous area.

Some fire engines and their crews continue to work 12-hour shifts.

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