Extreme heat to exacerbate southwestern US wildfire threat into early week

By By Renee Duff, meteorologist
June 28, 2016, 9:35:39 PM EDT

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Another round of sizzling heat threatens to aggravate the ongoing wildfire situation across the southwestern United States through early this week.

The massive Erskine Fire, burning about 40 miles east of Bakersfield, California, has already claimed two lives.

"Triple-digit heat will return to parts of [Southern California], and excessive heat will become likely in the Central Valley of California with some areas getting to, or just past 110 degrees Fahrenheit,” AccuWeather Western U.S. Weather Expert Ken Clark said.


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High temperatures are forecast to reach the low 110s F in places such as Las Vegas and Phoenix, which is still above average by 5-10 degrees.

Downtown Los Angeles may hit 90 F on multiple days early in the week.

Relief from the heat can be found at California beaches, where the Pacific Ocean influence will keep highs in the 70s and 80s.

While temperatures are not expected to reach the same levels as the heat wave that hit earlier this month, residents should still take precautions and remain vigilant of the high wildfire danger.

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Anyone spending time outdoors will want to remain aware for signs of dehydration and heat-related illnesses. At least five hikers died in Arizona during the record heat last week.

The persistent hot and dry conditions have left the region a tinderbox, with numerous wildfires currently burning hundreds of thousands of acres.

Cigarettes should be properly discarded and cars should not be parked over dry brush to avoid sparking a wildfire.

The resurgence of warmth early in the week will hinder containment of any ongoing major wildfires in the Southwest, including the Erskine Fire and the Cedar Fire in Arizona.


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The Erskine Fire has burned over 45,000 acres in Kern County, California, since it began on Thursday. The blaze has burned about 100 structures, according to InciWeb. An additional 1,500 structures are threatened.

The fire turned deadly on Friday when an elderly couple was killed as they tried to flee, the Associated Press reported.

On Friday, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Kern County as the fire exploded in size and began to threaten nearby homes, according to KNBC. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The threat for lightning-induced wildfires will ramp up in the new week.

“There will be a gradual increase in moisture around the high next week, which could spark some thunderstorms in Arizona and the mountains and deserts of Southern California,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.

Lightning strikes could easily spark new wildfires in the area and gusty winds from a nearby storm can cause wildfire movement to become erratic, posing a hazard to fire personnel and homes.

Haboobs can form due to the winds in the deserts, creating dangerously low visibility for motorists.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, nearly 2 million acres have been burned by wildfires from Jan. 1 to June 24, 2016. This is more than 1 million more acres burned compared to the same time period last year.

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