Intense Heat, Gusty Winds Spell Extreme Fire Danger
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued excessive heat warnings for areas in the southwestern United States, including California, Nevada and Arizona. The NWS forecast office in Phoenix has predicted temperatures as high as 119 degrees Fahrenheit, exceeding record highs.
The NWS’ red-flag warning indicates that the soaring temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds could present an “extreme fire danger.”
Temperatures have hit triple-digits in several California valley and inland area cities, such as Pasadena, which is expecting to approach 110 degrees. And dry, gusty winds are making already-ripe fire conditions even worse. Public officials are opening cooling centers and asking residents to conserve electricity.
The deadly heat has claimed several victims, most recently, a hiker in the Tuscon area who succumbed to the extreme heat. Authorities are urging resident of the Southwest to stay indoors, for their own safety — and for the safety of others.
Heat warnings have been issued for parts of Utah and red flag warnings — indicating conditions are ripe for wildfires — are in effect from Montana south into Colorado, according to CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen. (See related article, “California Drought Breeding More Wildfires,“ for additional weather-related information.)
Here are a few of the recent fires caused or exacerbated by the extreme heat:
Dog Head Fire
National Park Service. Photo, Public Domain
A wildfire in central New Mexico recently burned more than 16,000 acres of timber and logging zones, and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate. The so-called Dog Head Fire broke out about six miles northwest of the town of Tajique, which is approximately 30 miles southeast of Albuquerque.
The blaze destroyed 24 single-family homes near the small community of Chilili in Bernalillo County soon after it erupted last Wednesday, said John Helmich, a spokesman for the team of 600 firefighters battling the fire.
TheSherpa wildfirein Southern California quickly tripled in size and forced officials to close a portion of the 101 Freeway, a major corridor for vacation travelers near California’s coast. More than 8,000 acres in Santa Barbara County has been burned. At least 270 homes and businesses were under evacuation orders, as well as campgrounds and state beaches, according to Kerry Bierman, a spokeswoman for the joint operations center fighting the fire.
Hundreds of firefighters and workers with the U.S. Forest Service have trekked into the foothills of Los Angeles to try to contain the spread of the Fish Fire and Reservoir Fire — being treated as a single conflagration, called the San Gabriel Complex Fire — but the intense heat has made it extremely difficult.
These fires have burned nearly 5,000 acres in the foothills and mountains north of the San Gabriel Valley, according to fire officials. High winds have been fanning the flames, and rocky terrain has made moving around the hillside challenging. (See related article,“San Gabriel Fires Could Merge,“for additional information.)
EPA Photo, Public Domain
Meanwhile, a wildfire fueled by dry brush and sweltering temperatures has scorched 1,500 acres just north of theU.S.-Mexico borderand prompted mandatory evacuations for the entire East County community of Potrero. About 25 homes south of State Route 94 and east of state Route 188, near where the fire initially sparked, were also evacuated.
In theSilver Lake area of Los Angeles, a brush fire along the 2 Freeway caused the roadway to be shutdown for more than three hours. Scores of firefighters – and some residents – quickly descended on the scene in an attempt to save nearby homes. Assisted by water-dropping helicopters, it took 200 firefighters approximately 44 minutes to extinguish the fire, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.