Wildfires burn as Southwest swelters in triple-digit temperatures

Three new fires in Southern California erupted as highs well-over 100 degrees continued.

By Ed Adamczyk and Shawn Price
Wildfires burn as Southwest swelters in triple-digit temperatures
Weekend wildfires were reported in eight Western states as the Southwest saw temperatures of 120 degrees, with no respite from the heat expected until Tuesday. Photo courtesy of InciWeb/U.S. Forestry Service

LOS ANGELES, June 20 (UPI) -- Wildfires increased in size across eight southwestern states Monday as record-high temperatures were expected to worsen conditions in the next few days.

Numerous Arizona desert communities had temperatures of more than 120 degrees Sunday and cities across the Southwest set records. Burbank, Calif., had a 109-degree reading, Riverside, Calif., hit 111 degrees and Thermal, Calif., saw 119 degrees.


Los Angeles saw a high temperature of 96 degrees, and seven communities in New Mexico broke temperature records. Glendale, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, was the hottest spot in the United States on Sunday with a 120 degree reading. Temperatures are expected to rise until Tuesday.

At least four people have died because of the heat in separate hiking incidents in Arizona, and a fifth person is missing. More than 30 million people were affected by heat warnings or advisories from Los Angeles to New Mexico.

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The high temperatures impaired the battle against wildfires across the area. In California a 7,890-scre fire in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, has involved nearly 2,000 people and 23 aircraft in containment efforts, and mandatory evacuation orders. California's Highway 101 was closed for part of the weekend because of excessive smoke, The wildfire, called the Sherpa fire, threatened areas near the city of Santa Barbara, and was declared 51 percent contained late Sunday by the U.S. Forest Service.

Two more wildfires erupted in the hills just northeast of Los Angeles charring at least 3,500 acres and forcing the evacuations of hundreds of residents in the neighboring towns of Azuza and Duarte.

The so-called Reservoir Fire began about midday in the Angeles National forest near Duarte after a car rolled off the side of the rode and down a canyon. The blaze has quickly torn through at least 1,500 acres.

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A little more than an hour later, another fire, called the Fish Fire, burned through at least 2,000 acres as firefighters battle the high temperatures and hot, dry 12-15 mile-per-hour winds.


Fire officials said the only thing keeping the two fast burning fires from joining into one gigantic blaze was a canyon. Hundreds of U.S. Forest Service workers and fire fighters have been sent in to battle the blazes. So far, neither fire has been contained and no injuries and no property losses have been reported.

A fire in San Diego county burned 1,500 acres just north of the U.S.-Mexico border and forced the evacuations of the town of Portrero, Calif. A cause is not known.

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Near Albuquerque, N.M., a fire covering nearly 18,000 acres was 9 percent contained by Sunday evening. The Dog Head fire has already damaged 24 residences and 21 other structures; nearly 1,000 people are involved in fighting the fire, as helicopter dropped water and retardant on the fire. Forecasts call for a rise in humidity but no respite from the heat until Tuesday.

The Cedar Creek fire, north of Phoenix, shut down U.S. Highway 60 and consumed more than 12,000 acres by Sunday, when it was declared 30 percent contained. The Quemado fire, 40 miles away, burned more than 2,000 acres of brush land before an announcement that the majority of the fire was contained.


A U.S, Forestry Service website listed active wildfires, of varying sizes, in Utah, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, Texas and Oregon.

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A small brushfire also threatened a densely populated and hilly area of Los Angeles Sunday.

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