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Searing heat in Southern California sets temperature records

Excessive heat warnings will remain in place for the next few days, as searing temperatures continue to roast much of Southern California, increasing the risk of brush fires and putting a mounting strain on the state’s power grid.

Los Angeles County was bracing for daytime highs of 110 degrees Sunday and Monday, with the most extreme temperatures expected on Labor Day, according to the National Weather Service. As the year’s most severe heat wave continues, officials are cautioning residents to remain alert and to take steps to protect themselves.

By 1 pm Sunday record temperatures were already being set in some areas. In Ventura County, Oxnard reported a record daily high of 101 degrees, beating the old record of 96 set in 1961. Camarillo reported a record high of 103, wiping out the previous record of 93 set in 1961. These numbers could go even higher, officials said.

An hour later, Long Beach reported a record high of 108 degrees, breaking the previous record of 107 set in 1988, according to the National Weather Service.

Highs between 105 and 110 degrees are anticipated for Monday across broad swaths of the San Fernando, San Gabriel and Santa Clarita valleys, as well as communities in lower mountain elevations, said Joe Sirard, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

“Overall, it looks like the peak is today and tomorrow and then very slightly cooler Tuesday and Wednesday, but still excessively hot,” Sirard said.

Shorts, sundresses and sandals were in abundance Sunday afternoon at the Grand Central Marketplace in downtown Los Angeles.

Scores of patrons flocked to the open-air market, undeterred but prepared for the 103-degree heat.

Family and friends of Cesar Aguilar celebrated the Orange County resident’s 47th birthday telling stories and laughing, while drinking cold beers and Fantas and eating seafood.

This was Aguilar’s first visit to the marketplace and he started with a round of oysters and a few chilled beers.

“It’s hot here and it’s hot there, so it doesn’t matter where you go,” Aguilar said, referring to the 99-degree heat at his home in Tustin. “So, what can you do but have a cold drink?”

As California weathered another day of extreme heat, a statewide Flex Alert remained in place Sunday for the fifth day in a row. Power officials called for consumers to reduce their energy use between 4 and 9 pm to help ease stress on the power grid and avoid potential rolling blackouts driven by excessive demand.

“There’s a far-ranging heat dome over much of the western United States,” Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Services, said Sunday. “That’s bringing multiple challenges into our state, the most significant of which are the sustained high temperatures, which are a danger to our vulnerable communities throughout the state, elevated fire risks, and the stress that’s being placed on our electrical grid.”

The persistent hot, dry conditions are of particular concern to firefighters across the state.

The Mill and Mountain fires in Siskiyou County near the California-Oregon border have already burned more than 10,000 acres, according to Cal Fire. The Mill fire, which has burned more than 4,200 acres, is 25% contained, while the Mountain fire, which has burned more than 6,400 acres, is only 5% contained.

In Los Angeles County, the Route fire, which started Wednesday in the Castaic area, has burned more than 5,200 acres and was 91% contained as of Sunday morning, according to Cal Fire.

The increasing danger of new wildfires prompted the Office of Emergency Services to initiate what Ferguson called the largest pre-positioning event in state history, readying fire engines, water tenders and other firefighting resources in 20 counties to quickly respond.

Jon Heggie, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire, said the goal is to extinguish most fires before they reach 10 acres.

“We want to quickly identify and put out fires where they start,” he said. “We know that these heat domes have been an issue in the past and if a fire does start we want to be in position.”

Inland and valley areas are especially vulnerable to the heat and the potential for fires.

The temperature in Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley is expected to peak at 113 degrees on Sunday before falling to 111 on Monday, said Sirard, of the National Weather Service.

Lancaster is expected to hit 110 degrees Sunday, increase to 112 or 113 degrees Monday, then remain at 110 to 112 Tuesday before dropping to 109 degrees on Wednesday, Sirad said.

The extreme temperatures are still short of the overall record for LA County of 120 degrees, recorded two years ago Tuesday in Woodland Hills, he said.

Elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are advised to stay indoors or go to designated cooling centers. People should also cool their homes earlier in the day, when the electrical grid is less strained, and limit power use between 4 and 9 pm by avoiding using appliances.

Residents should also sign up for emergency alerts for their home counties, which provide information related to heat and fires, among other concerns.

“Be diligent with neighbors and friends and people who are at high risk of heat illness,” Ferguson said. “Check on them, support them.”

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