U.S. firefighters have partially contained two of the biggest wildfires ravaging parts of the western state of California, allowing some residents to return to their homes.

Officials say firefighters took advantage of cooler temperatures and low winds Monday in the Los Padres National Forest, near the town of Goleta, and now have that fire 35 percent contained.  Some nearby residents who had been forced to evacuate were allowed to return to their homes.

Officials say a second fire, raging near Big Sur, is 18 percent contained.  The area along California's Pacific coast is a scenic vacation area where mountains descend sharply to the ocean shore.

However, progress in fighting the big blazes may be short-lived.

Forecasters warn a new weather system is likely to bring hotter, drier weather Tuesday, with temperatures near 38 degrees (Celsius -100 degrees Fahrenheit).  

They also say there is a possibility of lightning strikes, which could spark additional fires.

Over the past two weeks, wildfires have blackened more than 200,000 hectares of land and destroyed at least 40 homes.  One firefighter has also died.

Authorities in California have also arrested one man, after he and his brother used a series of backfires to save their home near Big Sur.

Firefighters often use backfires, also called controlled burns, to keep wildfires from spreading.  But California officials say civilians are prohibited from using backfires because they can be dangerous, and cause additional damage or death.


Some information for this report was provided by AP.