Brutal heatwave persists in US West as Oregon wildfire rages

The forecast comes a day after Death Valley, California, hit 54 deg C, one of the highest temperatures ever recorded on earth. PHOTO: AFP

PHOENIX (REUTERS) - A punishing heatwave was again forecast to bring near-record high temperatures to many parts of the United States West on Monday (July 12), as a wildfire raged out of control in drought-stricken Oregon.

The forecast comes a day after Death Valley, California, hit a scorching 54 deg C, one of the highest temperatures ever recorded on earth.

But the National Weather Service said the intense heat had likely peaked across much of the region, ahead of more seasonable temperatures later this week.

In Oregon, the so-called Bootleg Fire had burned through more than 61,900ha as at Monday morning, mostly in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

Hundreds of residents in the Klamath Falls area, in south-central Oregon, were under mandatory evacuation orders, and the Klamath County Sheriff's Department began issuing citations to enforce them and will consider the unusual step of making arrests if necessary, county officials said.

The agency that manages California's power grid, the California Independent System Operator, issued a "flex alert" urging residents to conserve power between 4pm and 9pm local time on Monday, after the Bootleg Fire in Oregon disrupted electric transmission lines.

Other states have also confronted fires as temperatures soared in many areas. Along California's border with Nevada, the Beckwourth Complex Fire had grown to around 36,260ha as at Monday morning, with about 23 per cent containment, according to the state's fire incident reporting system.

In Arizona, federal authorities on Monday were investigating the crash of a small plane that went down while surveying a wildfire in the north-western part of the state, killing both crew members.

The authorities said the Beechcraft King Air C-90 aircraft was part of the initial effort to contain the Cedar Basin Fire when it crashed at about noon last Saturday near Wikieup, approximately 223km north-west of Phoenix.

The fire has burned 297ha and is 75 per cent contained as at Monday morning, fire officials said.

The crew members were identified as Mr Jeff Piechura, 62, a retired Tucson fire chief, and Mr Matthew Miller, 48, a pilot with Falcon Executive Aviation.

The Department of Interior Office of Aviation Services, in conjunction with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, are investigating the accident.

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