Massive fire in a California crushed by the heat

Massive fire in a California crushed by the heat

Hundreds of firefighters were mobilized Thursday, September 1 to fight a fire along a major highway in California, hit by a dreadful heat wave. Water bombers went into action to try to control a fire that started on Wednesday and has already affected more than 2,100 hectares of the Los Angeles hinterland. Seven firefighters were briefly hospitalized with minor heat-related injuries, fire officials said.

California is facing, like parts of Nevada and Arizona, another day of extreme temperatures. A heat dome settled over the area, pushing the mercury to soar to 43°C on Thursday in the area of ​​the fire. This sweltering weather is expected to continue until next week, with temperature peaks of up to 46°C.

The fire on the side of the highway, dubbed “Route Fire”, is “an alarm signal” about the current fire risk, said Robert Garcia, the Los Angeles-area forest fire chief. Current conditions could lead to fires “very fast” with a “explosive behavior”he said. “The next few days are going to be very difficult”warned Robert Garcia in front of the press.

The “Route Fire”, which blocked a few hours during the main highway connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco, is partly under control, said the firefighters, but still much remains to be done to achieve its extinction. “Intense heat, low humidity and rough terrain will complicate the work of firefighters”, said the authorities in a situation update. They estimate that this will promote large plumes of smoke, the advance of the fire towards the top of the reliefs and the triggering of other nearby fires.

Dangerously hot temperatures

The heat wave affecting the western United States also caused disruptions on the Californian electricity grid. Its regulator, California ISO, asks households to limit their consumption from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in order to avoid saturation. Among the measures recommended is stopping the recharging of electric vehicles at these times, in a state which announced a few days earlier that it would ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. The reduction in demand that would result from these gestures “can help stabilize the power grid at times of high demand and (Thus) avoid emergency measures that include cuts” temporary,” California ISO wrote in its alert message.

In the middle of the day, all the solar panels provide a third of the electricity in California. But when the sun goes down, the supply of photovoltaic energy is abruptly interrupted, leaving the other sources of electricity to take over – which is a problem in the early evening, when the heat of the day is not still falling, pushing demand via air conditioning. On Wednesday, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom temporarily lifted restrictions so that fossil-fuelled power plants could produce more.

The US Weather Service (NWS) has issued an “excessive heat” alert for the majority of California, as well as parts of Arizona and Nevada, warning of “dangerously hot temperatures” for the next few days. The mercury is expected to stay very high – over 25°C – overnight. In Southern California, heat waves are not unusual in September, but temperatures above 37°C are considered very hot, even for an area known for its strong sunshine.

Recurring heat waves are an unmistakable marker of global warming – and these heat waves are set to multiply, lengthen and intensify further, say scientists. The American West is hit by more than two decades of devastating drought, made worse by climate change.


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