As California Burns, Governor Declares Emergency
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LOS ANGELES – Nearly 4,000 firemen battled wildfires raging through huge areas of California on Sunday as the state sweltered under record temperatures expected to continue until the autumn.
Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in the scorched area 100 miles east of Los Angeles, where blazes have destroyed scores of homes and claimed at least one life.
Forecasters meanwhile warned of no let-up in unseasonable heat that has sent thermometers soaring to record highs of 122 degrees Fahrenheit in inland areas.
According to meteorologists, the state has effectively “skipped spring,” jumping straight to the blistering highs normally confined to late summer. The past few months have been unusually warm, with central Los Angeles experiencing its second hottest June and July to date – almost six degrees above average.
The situation is reflected nationwide, with the first half of the year declared the warmest since record keeping began. From January to June, the continental states experienced temperatures 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the 20th century and, by last month, almost half were in a state of moderate to extreme drought.
The dry conditions have so far sparked more than 50,000 wildfires, burning more than three million acres in the continental U.S., according to the National Interagency Fire Centre. In California’s San Bernardino National Forest, fire crews have endured temperatures of 112 degrees Fahrenheit as they struggle to contain a huge complex of fires ignited a week ago by lightning striking arid brush.
Two clusters of blazes merged to blacken a vast area around the Yucca Valley, destroying more than 50 desert homes.