Hundreds of firefighters were mobilized Thursday, September 1 to fight a fire on a major highway in California, which was hit by a terrible heat wave. Water bombers moved to try to control the fire that started on Wednesday and has already affected more than 2,100 hectares in the hinterland of Los Angeles. Seven firefighters were rushed to the hospital with minor heat-related injuries, fire officials said.
California faced, as did parts of Nevada and Arizona, another day of extreme temperatures. A heat dome settled in the area, pushing the mercury to rise to 43°C on Thursday in the area of the fire. This harsh weather is expected to continue until next week, with high temperatures of up to 46°C.
A fire on the side of the highway, called a “Route Fire”, is “an alarm signal” about the current fire risk, said Robert Garcia, the Los Angeles-area forest fire chief. Current conditions can lead to fire “too 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 for several hours the main highway connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco, is partially under control, firefighters said, but more needs to be done to achieve its extinction . “Extreme heat, low humidity and rough terrain complicate the work of firefighters”, authorities said in an update on the situation. 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 damage to California’s power grid. Its regulator, the California ISO, asks households to limit their consumption from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm to avoid saturation. Among the measures recommended is to stop the recharging of electric vehicles during these times, in a state that announced a few days earlier that it would ban the sale of new cars that powered by gasoline in 2035. The reduction in demand that results from these actions. “Helps stabilize the power grid during times of high demand and (Thus) avoid emergency measures that include cuts” temporary,” the California ISO wrote in its alert message.
In the middle of the day, all solar panels provide a third of California’s electricity. But at sunset, the supply of photovoltaic energy is suddenly cut off, leaving other sources of electricity to take over – which is a problem in the early evening, when the sun’s heat has not yet fallen, driving the need for air conditioning . On Wednesday, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom temporarily lifted restrictions to allow fossil-fired power plants to produce more.
The US Weather Service (NWS) has issued an “extreme heat” alert for much of California, as well as parts of Arizona and Nevada, warning of “dangerously hot temperatures” over the next few days. . The mercury is expected to remain very high – above 25°C – throughout the night. In Southern California, heat waves are not uncommon in September, but temperatures above 37 °C are considered too hot, even in an area known for strong sunshine.
Recurring heat waves are an unmistakable sign of global warming – and these heat waves are set to become more frequent, longer and more intense, scientists say. The American West has been hit by more than two decades of devastating drought, exacerbated by climate change.