Record-breaking heat continues to create dangerous fire conditions across California

Matthew Ormseth, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

LOS ANGELES — A blistering heat wave blanketing parts of Southern California is expected to extend through the weekend, pushing temperatures well past 100 degrees in valleys and inland areas while continuing to create dangerous fire conditions across the state.

Temperatures in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys on Saturday were expected to range from the mid-90s to a high of 105 degrees, while the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys were likely to see highs of up to 115 degrees, officials said.

"We could be approaching or exceeding all time record highs in Lancaster and Palmdale," said Joe Sirard, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

The broiling heat has shattered records up and down the state this week, with Palm Springs reaching 124 degrees on Friday, breaking the all-time record of 123 degrees set in 2021, 1995 and 1993.

In Death Valley, the mercury soared to 127 degrees Friday — and Saturday it was expected to climb to 128 degrees, the weather service warned.

Extreme heat, low humidity and strong winds prompted officials to issue a red flag warning through the weekend along the 5 Freeway corridor and in the Antelope Valley foothills, Sirard said.

"Fires are dangerous anywhere," he said, "but this is really a heightened danger. [Fires] will spread rapidly, explosively, and it's extremely dangerous for firefighters."

Hampered by scorching temperatures, firefighters were continuing to battle numerous wildfires across California on Saturday. The largest is the Basin fire in Fresno County, which started June 26. The fire, which has burned 14,027 acres, was 46% contained early Saturday.

Crews were beginning to get the upper hand on the French fire, which began on the Fourth of July and had threatened the town of Mariposa outside Yosemite National Park. The 908-acre fire, which temporarily triggered mandatory evacuations and closed State Route 140 leading into the park, was 25% contained.

In Southern California, a fire in Santa Barbara County had swelled to 4,673 acres on Saturday morning with zero containment, officials said. The Lake fire, burning near Zaca Lake in the Santa Ynez Valley, triggered an evacuation order early Saturday for an area north of Zaca Lake Road, east of Foxen Canyon Road and south of the Sisquoc River.

Temperatures in the 90s and very low humidity overnight fueled the fire's spread, while a layer of warm air over the fire had trapped smoke close to the ground, Scott Safechuck, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said in a post on the social media platform X.

Farther south, the Rancho fire, which was reported Friday evening, burned about 13 acres of brush along the 101 Freeway near Thousand Oaks.


Andy VanSciver, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department, said in a video posted on X that the Rancho fire had been contained as of around 7 p.m. Friday. After stopping its forward progress, firefighters worked overnight to extinguish hot spots, he said.

In Riverside County, firefighters had managed to get control of the 70-acre Hills fire near Juniper Springs, with 75% containment as of Saturday afternoon.

Authorities had evacuated an area near where the fire broke out Friday afternoon at Juniper Flats Road and Mapes Road in Homeland. People affected by the evacuations were directed to Tahquitz High School in Hemet and the Riverside County Animal Shelter in San Jacinto.

Meanwhile, residents of Los Angeles County's valleys and inland areas are urged to stay indoors during the day if possible and avoid hiking, even in areas that might seem cool at sea level.

"Even in the Santa Monica mountains, which are close to the coast, once you get above a certain elevation, 1,500 feet, it's going to get very, very hot," Sirard said.

Sirard said people should follow common-sense practices, like hydrating through the day and wearing lightweight and light-colored clothing. If you want to get some sun, head to the beaches, Sirard said, where temperatures should range from the low 70s to the low 80s.

"If people want to beat the heat this weekend," he said, "the coast is the place to go."

In the Bay Area, cool weather along the coast gave way to blistering heat in northern Sonoma and Napa counties, where temperatures were expected to climb to 110 degrees, said Nicole Sarment, a meteorologist for the weather service in San Francisco.

"There's as much as a 50-degree variation, depending on where you are," she said.

San Francisco was forecast to see a high of 79 degrees Saturday before dipping to 58 at night, she said. In Oakland, temperatures were expected to range from 59 to 87 degrees, while San Jose was predicted to see a low of 64 and high of 99.

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