A resident reacts with joy after finding her cat amidst the burnt remains of her home.
A resident reacts with joy after finding her cat amidst the burnt remains of her home.
PIC: AFP

Three massive wildfires chewed through parched Northern California landscape as firefighters raced to dig breaks and make other preparations ahead of a frightening weather system packing high winds and more of the lightning that sparked the huge blazes.

There were hundreds of other wildfires burning Sunday across the state and nearly 250,000 people were under evacuation orders and warnings.

The death toll from the fires reached 7 after authorities battling a big fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco announced the discovery of the body of a 70-year-old man in a remote area called Last Chance.

He had been reported missing and police had to use a helicopter to reach the area of about 40 off-the-grid homes at the end of a windy, steep dirt road north of the city of Santa Cruz.

The area was under an evacuation order and Santa Cruz Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Chris Clark said the discovery of the man's body served as a reminder of how important it was for residents to evacuate from fire danger zones.

"This is one of the darkest periods we've been in with this fire," he said.

California over the last week has been hit by 650 wildfires across the state, many sparked by more than 12,000 lighting strikes recorded since August 15.

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