Wildfires rage as California sizzles

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from a fast-moving wildfire burning through steep terrain near California's central coast, after searing temperatures have fueled dozens of blazes in the US West.
A Santa Barbara City Fire department vehicle parked to provide structure protection to a home near Los Padres National Forest on July 8, 2017.
A Santa Barbara City Fire department vehicle parked to provide structure protection to a home near Los Padres National Forest on July 8, 2017.PHOTO: SANTA BARBARA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT
A helicopter making a water drop near Cachuma Lake in Los Padres National Forest on July 8, 2017.
A helicopter making a water drop near Cachuma Lake in Los Padres National Forest on July 8, 2017. PHOTO: SANTA BARBARA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT
Flames near Cachuma Lake and Highway 154 in Los Padres National Forest on July 8, 2017.
Flames near Cachuma Lake and Highway 154 in Los Padres National Forest on July 8, 2017. PHOTO: SANTA BARBARA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT
Burned boats and motors Cachuma Lake Campground in Los Padres National Forest on July 8, 2017.
Burned boats and motors Cachuma Lake Campground in Los Padres National Forest on July 8, 2017. PHOTO: SANTA BARBARA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT
The full moon rises over flames of the Alamo fire on a hilltop off Highway 166 east of Santa Maria, California on July 7, 2017.
The full moon rises over flames of the Alamo fire on a hilltop off Highway 166 east of Santa Maria, California on July 7, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The first major wildfires after the end of California's five-year drought raged across the state Saturday (July 8), as it was gripped by a record-breaking heatwave.

Some 3,000 firefighters were battling several blazes with triple-digit temperatures recorded in valleys and inland areas.

A wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento was only two per cent contained by early evening and had destroyed 10 homes, scorching 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of forest and sparking evacuations and road closures.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said five residents and a firefighter had sustained minor injuries.

Meanwhile a blaze that forced evacuations in San Luis Obispo County tripled in size from Saturday morning to 19,000 acres by the evening. Fanned by hot, dry winds, it was just 10 per cent contained, CalFire said.

Some 17 wildfires in various states of containment were burning in California Saturday, from the Six Rivers National Forest in the north to the San Bernardino Forest east of Los Angeles.

An excessive heat warning has been extended until 11pm (2pm Sunday Singapore time) for much of southern California, with temperature records being broken across the region.

Downtown Los Angeles tied the 1954 record of 36 deg C while the city's north-western suburb of Woodland Hills reached a high of 42.7 deg C, breaking the record of 108 set in 2006.

The National Weather Service attributed the heat wave to a "strong upper-level high-pressure system centered over the desert south-west," adding that the heatwave could continue into Sunday.

"Hot temperatures will create a dangerous situation in which there is an increased threat of heat-related illnesses. The extended heat wave will also bring elevated fire weather conditions through the weekend," said the National Weather Service.

California Governor Jerry Brown in April declared the official end of the state's drought that lasted more than five years.

But he kept in place water reporting requirements, as well as bans on practices like watering during or following rainfall and hosing off sidewalks.

"This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner," Brown said in a statement.

"Conservation must remain a way of life."