Triple-digit heatwave prompts warning, fire dangers across Southern California

Amid a blistering heatwave in Southern California, fire officials are worried that triple-digit temperatures and extremely dry weather will be the perfect environment for fire disaster.

Summer creates the perfect conditions for brush and vegetation fires to combust at any time. The dangers are only exacerbated by the many fireworks waiting to be ignited during the July 4th celebrations this weekend.

With an excessive heatwave warning in place and temperatures set to hit triple digits across the Southland this week, local and state officials have activated resources toward an Extreme Temperature Response Plan by opening free cooling centers across the state and enforcing heat protections for outdoor workers.

Excessive heat warnings and watches are in effect for much of California starting Tuesday through the end of the week and weekend,” according to Governor Gavin Newsom’s office.

The National Weather Service is “forecasting Extreme HeatRisk for many parts of the state, with hot conditions between 105 and 115 degrees for multiple days and little overnight relief,” state officials said.

“The weather and everything out here is dry, so even if someone is smoking or they just left something go, it’s possible that can lead to an entire brush fire, even just something simple,” said Brittany Flores, a Lake Balboa resident.

Valley and desert areas will see temperatures reaching 96-116 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Residents are strongly advised to avoid outdoor activity whenever possible.

Yashira Almanza, a runner from the Lake Balboa area, said without the cooling benefits of a sea breeze, her landlocked community is famous for heating up quickly in the summer, creating dangerous conditions for those who like working out or spending time outdoors.

“If you go to Santa Monica or Ventura or anywhere, it feels like it’s cooler to people in the Valley,” Almanza said.

Fourth of July fireworks also pose an extreme threat to mountain regions that are already primed for fires, officials said.

In 2023, Los Angeles-area firefighters responded to more than 200 fireworks-related calls and cautioned that one small spark can create tremendous, devastating damage.

Gregg Bloomberg and his daughter, Wendy, said they always prepare for the hot and dry summer heatwave every year and make sure not to overwhelm their bodies when stepping outside.

“When we take walks, it’s in the evening and if I’m going to exercise during the heatwave it’s going to be inside a gym where there’s air conditioning,” Bloomberg explained.

For resident Amelia Castro, she still plans to spend time outdoors but will always make sure to find a shady spot and bring along a bottle of water to prevent dehydration.

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Management is pre-positioning fire crews and fire engines in high-risk areas to prepare for possible wildfires.

“This heatwave is serious,” Newsom said. “We’re used to hot temperatures in California but this will be several days with little relief overnight. As we come together this week to celebrate the Fourth of July, look out for each other and take steps to stay safe. Extreme heat kills more Americans every year than all other extreme weather, including wildfires and flooding.”

Some ways to stay safe during an excessive heatwave include:

  • Staying cool and indoors during the hottest times of the day

  • Those without air conditioning should consider going to a cooling center or visiting a public location such as a library or shopping mall

  • Avoid physical exertion or exercising outdoors

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.

  • Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, even when not thirsty

  • Avoid sugary, alcoholic, and very cold drinks

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

  • Monitor those at higher risk of heat-related illness including infants and young children, people over 65 years old, individuals with chronic illness, disabilities or those who are pregnant

  • Use a buddy system when working in the heat

  • Check the local news for weather forecasts, extreme heat alerts

When spending time around pools, beaches or lakes, make sure to wear proper lifesaving gear and only swim within your skill level. More information about water safety tips can be found here.

Locations of free cooling centers near you can be found here. Information on how to prepare for wildfires and natural disasters can be found here.

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