Hundreds of people were ordered to evacuate from a fast-moving wildfire burning through steep terrain near California’s central coast on Saturday, after searing temperatures and parched land fueled dozens of blazes in the U.S. West and Southwest.
The so-called Alamo Fire, feeding on bone-dry vegetation, nearly tripled in size on Saturday to about 19,000 acres (7,700 hectares) on the border between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. More than 1,000 firefighters have been fighting the blaze that started on Thursday and was 10-percent contained as of Saturday afternoon, officials said.
There were 40 uncontained large U.S. wildfires on Saturday, the National Weather Service said.
One of the largest was the Truckee Fire in Nevada, which was nearly 100,000 acres (40,460 hectares) in size, according to the InciWeb tracking service. There have been no immediate reports of fire-related deaths.
No major injuries have been reported in California’s Alamo fire, according to Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Gina DePinto. She said authorities are working to evacuate people from the blaze, aiming to stop it from reaching wineries to the south and electric transmission lines to the southeast.
Heavy rainfall in parts of the West over the winter and spring helped delay the onset of the fire season, but also spurred the growth of dense vegetation that has dried out and become highly combustible in summertime heat.
Temperatures in the Southern Californian resort city of Palm Springs climbed to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) on Friday, breaking a record high for that date set in 1976, according to the National Weather Service. The all-time recorded high was 123 degrees Fahrenheit (50.5 Celsius), local news reports said.
Downtown Los Angeles, usually cooler than other parts of the city, set a record for the date at 96 degrees (36 degrees Celsius).
Excessive heat in desert regions in the U.S. Southwest could pose a threat to human life through Saturday night, according to a National Weather Service advisory.
Daily temperature records in several cities in the U.S. West may be tied or broken on Saturday, the Weather Service said.
By Sunday, high temperatures are forecast to reach the Plains states, including North and South Dakota and Iowa.
Wildfires have also spread rapidly in Canada this week.
The province of British Columbia declared its first state of emergency in 14 years late on Friday as dozens of wildfires spread throughout the rural interior of the Pacific province, forcing thousands to evacuate their homes.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Diane Craft and Sandra Maler)