Most fire victims had returned home by Sunday. Red Cross officials announced that they had closed 14 of 20 shelters.
Symbolic of the shift was San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, which last week had housed up to 13,000 of the displaced, but which Sunday again became the home of professional football's San Diego Chargers.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opened the game with the coin flip and then thanked the emergency workers in attendance.
Firefighters led the hometown Chargers onto the field, where they proceeded to drub the Houston Texans, 35-10.
During the game, Schwarzenegger went to the private box of Chargers owner Dean Spanos to phone President Bush, according to a spokesman.
The governor reportedly thanked the president for coming to California to tour fire-ravaged areas, but then repeatedly stressed the importance of "follow-through" on the part of the federal government.
Fans were in a celebratory mood. At tailgate parties on the stadium grounds, fans enjoyed the smell of barbecue -- even if it was mixed with the lingering odor of burning brush. They toted signs -- "Can't Burn our Spirit" and "Thank you, First Responders, God Bless" -- and lustily cheered the many emergency workers who attended the game.
"It's awesome," said Angel Gomez, 38, of Rancho Penasquitos, who watched the game at the Del Mar fairgrounds shelter. "What else do we have to bring everyone together except the Chargers, the firefighters and the great community?"
The army of personnel and equipment brought to Southern California during the onslaught is only now on the verge of returning to home bases as far away as Seattle and New Mexico. As of Sunday, 13,135 firefighters and other emergency workers remained in the field, staffing 1,477 engines.
Nearly 2,000 of the firefighters continued to battle the Santiago fire in the extremely dense brush of the Cleveland National Forest.
Crews used 18 bulldozers, as well as hand tools, as they began cutting 10 miles of new firebreak around a blaze that had blackened more than 28,000 acres. It was 65% contained late Sunday.
Eight air tankers and 13 helicopters aided the ground crews.
"It's a contingency plan," said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Stephen Miller, "in case things go south on us."
Gone, however, were the low humidity and wind gusts of 70 miles per hour and more that bedeviled mountain and canyon areas last week. The National Weather Service said that humidity could climb as high as 70% in coming days and that a bit of drizzle could even fall on the region.
The forecast for next weekend looks more problematic, with the return of gusty winds, but probably not as strong as those that pushed the fires beyond control.
The decreasing threat meant that many San Bernardino Mountain communities reopened Sunday, including Twin Peaks, Rimforest, Blue Jay, Agua Fria, Deer Lodge Park, Sky Forest and Cedar Glen.
Dawn King, 52, upon returning with her husband, Kent, 46, to the second home they have been renovating in Rimforest, was overjoyed that "we never saw one bit of charring of anything. There wasn't even a smell of smoke. It was like nothing ever happened. I thought, 'Thank God, everything is OK. Thank God.' "