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Hundreds rescued from fires by helicopter as heatwave bakes California

Eight people have been killed and some 3300 structures have been destroyed over the past three weeks in wildfires across the state.

Three major fires, including the Creek Fire, were burning in Fresno, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, the agency said in a statement, adding it had increased staffing in preparation for “critical fire weather.”

A Los Angeles fire department helicopter makes a water drop over a brush fire at the Sepulveda Basin in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles on Sunday.

A Los Angeles fire department helicopter makes a water drop over a brush fire at the Sepulveda Basin in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles on Sunday.Credit:AP

A dangerous heat wave was baking swaths of the western United States through the weekend, and many locations in California registered record-high temperatures on Sunday.

The temperature reached 49 degrees on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles County, a record for the National Weather Service office that covers the metropolitan area.

“This is an historic heat wave for south-western California and one that will be remembered for a long time,” the service said in a statement.

Climate scientist Daniel Swain shared one “sobering thought” on Twitter: The only thing stopping some parts of California from seeing record high temperatures may be the “dense pall of smoke from explosively growing wildfires” blocking the sun.

The heat forecast to suffocate California until Tuesday is expected to grow even worse.

“More than 100 high-temperature records are at stake across the west,” said Jim Rouiller, lead meteorologist at the Energy Weather Group.

High temperatures in Southern California Sunday will range from 105 to 115 degrees near the coast to up to 120 degrees in inland areas, which would edge past all-time high temperature records in some locations.

Some of the noteworthy temperature records that have already fallen include: Burbank, California, tied its high temperature record of 45.5 degrees on Saturday; Palm Springs hit 50 degrees, breaking its previous September record from 1950; Death Valley set a September record with a high of 51.7, beating the old record of 50.56, set in 1996. This comes just two weeks after hitting 54.4 degrees, an August record, and the highest temperature observed globally since at least 1931.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department issued a voluntary evacuation order on Sunday afternoon as the 2165-hectare Valley Fire raged unchecked on the eastern edge of the metropolitan area of more than 3 million people.

“The sky is so thick by my house; the sky is a dirty brown cloud and I live about 25 minutes to the west of the fire,” Twitter user Cris Mel said in a post. “It’s kind of a struggle to breathe.”

State officials on Sunday repeated calls to Californians to turn off appliances and lights to help avoid blackouts from an overwhelmed power grid.

Southern California Edison Co (SCE), which services 5 million customer accounts in the region, was advising customers of potential rotating outages between 4pm and 9pm on Sunday.

Rotating outages — in which utilities purposely cut power temporarily to avoid broader outages — are rare. They last occurred in the region in August. Before that, they had not occurred in 20 years, said SCE spokesmen Reggie Kumar.

Reuters, with wires

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