Scorched earth: Aerial views of California wildfire aftermath

Glimpses of blue skies gave hope on Sunday to firefighters battling the deadliest wildfires in California history, which have killed at least 40 people and reduced whole neighborhoods in the state’s wine country to ash.

Two of the three deadliest blazes were more than half contained by Sunday, making it safe enough for law enforcement to begin inspecting some evacuated areas in hard-hit Sonoma County, according to the county sheriff’s office.

Only after those inspections were complete would they begin to decide when it would be safe for residents whose homes were not among the 5,700 structures destroyed by more than a dozen separate wildfires, which ignited a week ago and have since consumed an area larger than New York City.

“The skies are blue,” Don Martini, a 69-year-old retired carpenter, said after waking up at the Sonoma Raceway campgrounds, where he had spent the previous four days with only smoke and smog overhead. “I haven’t seen a blue sky since this whole thing started.”

Some at the raceway evacuation center hoped to return to their homes on Sunday.

But the fast-moving fires north of San Francisco remained a danger, with thousands more people ordered to leave their homes on Saturday as the death toll crept upward. Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for, and entire neighborhoods have been turned to ashes.

Some 11,000 firefighters supported by air tankers and helicopters battled fires that have consumed more than 217,000 acres (88,000 hectares). (Reuters)

Here are aerial views of the devastation caused by the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, Calif.

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Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

In this aerial view, a police officer drives near burned properties in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2017. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

Homes burned by a wildfire are seen Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. (Photo: Jeff Chiu/AP)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

An aerial view of properties destroyed by the Tubbs Fire is seen in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

A lush vineyard, left, is seen next to a scorched wasteland near Vintners Inn, just north of Coffey Park, Sonoma County near Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: George Rose/Georgerose.com via AP)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

In this aerial view, burned properties are seen in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2017. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

An aerial view of properties destroyed by the Tubbs Fire is seen in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

An aerial view shows a burned property in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2017. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

An aerial view of properties destroyed by the Tubbs Fire is seen in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

A worker takes photograph of a building destroyed by the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

Homes destroyed from fires are seen from an aerial view in Santa Rosa, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: Jeff Chiu/AP)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

A burned property is seen in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2017. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

An aerial view of properties destroyed by the Tubbs Fire is seen in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

A burned tree stands in the middle of burned properties in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2017. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

An aerial view shows firefighters working at a burned property in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2017. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

In this aerial view, burned properties are seen in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2017. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

An aerial view of properties destroyed by the Tubbs Fire is seen in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

In this aerial view, a burned neighborhood is seen in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2017. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

This aerial image shows a neighborhood that was destroyed by a wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Photo: Nick Giblin/DroneBase via AP)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

Pacific Gas and Electric trucks are seen parked on a road between homes destroyed by the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

An aerial view of properties destroyed by the Tubbs Fire is seen in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

This aerial photo provided by the California Highway Patrol Golden Gate Division shows some of hundreds of homes destroyed by a wind-driven wildfire that swept through Santa Rosa, Calif., early Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Photo: California Highway Patrol Golden Gate Division via AP)

Tubbs Fire aftermath in Santa Rosa

This Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, satellite image using a Very Near Infrared (VNIR) provided by DigitalGlobe shows damage from the wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif. VNIR imagery causes healthy vegetation to appear red and the burn scar from the wildfire to appear dark brown. Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through northern California, sending residents on a headlong race to safety through smoke and flames as homes burned. (Photo: Digital Globe via AP)

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