MALIBU, Calif. – Southern California’s huge wildfire roared to life again Tuesday in a mountain wilderness area. But in a sign of significant progress against the blaze, more neighborhoods were reopened to thousands of residents who fled last week.

A massive plume rose suddenly at midmorning in the Santa Monica Mountains near the community of Lake Sherwood, prompting authorities to send numerous aircraft to drop fire retardant and water on the blaze.

Forecasters had warned of ongoing fire danger because of persistent Santa Ana winds, the withering, dry gusts that sweep out of the interior toward the coast, pushing back moist ocean breezes.

But except for an apartment building that burned overnight in coastal Malibu, there was little sign of fire activity elsewhere in the vast fire zone west of Los Angeles.

Officials tempered optimism with caution, saying there were hotspots and pockets of unburned vegetation.

“We are not out of the woods yet. We still have some incredibly tough conditions ahead of us,” said Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen.

The death toll from the Woolsey fire stood at two — adults found last week in a car overtaken by flames. They have not been identified.

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