California firefighters battle wildfires in extreme heat

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California firefighters battled destructive wildfires Monday as a lengthening heat wave roasted the state.

Thousands of homes were at risk and air quality deteriorated in areas affected by smoke.

The National Weather Service blanketed the state in warnings of excessive heat and high fire danger, including the threat from lightning strikes.

Nearly 30 fires were burning, many of them in rural or forest lands. Many were small but uncontained.

“We are all experiencing rather extraordinary conditions,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

Newsom expressed optimism that most of the smaller blazes would be suppressed relatively quickly.

In Nevada County in the Sierra Nevada, a fire erupted Monday in a canyon northwest of Nevada City and quickly spread. Nearly 4,000 people were under evacuation orders, authorities said.

Near California’s northern border with Nevada, a 62-square-mile (160.58-square-kilometer) fire ignited by lightning near the community of Loyalton was 10% contained after destroying five homes and a half-dozen other structures, the Tahoe National Forest said.

It was burning through timber, sage and tall grass.

Across the state line, school officials in Reno postponed Monday’s scheduled reopening of classrooms.

“As a result of the Loyalton Fire and the deteriorating air quality, we have made the decision that we cannot safely reopen our school district for our students and staff,” Washoe County School District Superintendent Kristen McNeill said in a message to families and staff.

To the south, a fire sparked by lightning over the weekend in a remote desert region charred more than 65 square miles (168 square kilometers) of scrub brush and Joshua trees in the Mojave National Preserve. There was zero containment.

Several lightning-sparked fires prompted evacuation orders and warnings across the San Francisco Bay Area, including a fast-growing blaze to the north in rural Napa County. In the East Bay, crews protected canyon homes from flames churning through dry brush near Milpitas.

In the mountains and desert of northern Los Angeles County, the 6-day-old Lake Fire was 38% contained after scorching 29.7 square miles (76.92 square kilometers).

The blaze, which consumed thousands of acres of brush in its first few hours, had more moderate behavior by Sunday but about 4,500 homes remained at risk, county Supervisor Kathryn said.

A dozen structures, including homes, have been destroyed there.

Smoke from the Lake Fire and smaller fires in mountains east and west of Los Angeles led regulators to declare unhealthy air quality for a wide area of suburbs. A blaze in mountains near Lake Piru in Ventura County sent up a towering plume visible for miles.

Elsewhere, the 6-square-mile (15.54-square-kilometers) River Fire south of Salinas in Monterey County was 10% surrounded after burning five buildings, including at least one home.

Authorities reported four people injured since it was ignited by lightning Sunday.