While a significant fire devastated a portion of California, tens of millions of Americans already baking in a sweltering heat wave braced for record-breaking temperatures to rise on Saturday.
The worst of the country’s high heat is predicted to hit the central and northeastern regions on Sunday at the earliest, which has public health officials scurrying.
A big oak fire, which started on Friday in California near Yosemite National Park, where gigantic sequoias have already been endangered by fire recently, is one example of how the extreme heat has raised the risk of fires.
In less than 24 hours, the “explosive” Oak Fire expanded from 60 acres to more than 6,555 (2,650 hectares). Concentrated in Mariposa County, it has already damaged five buildings and destroyed 10, with hundreds more potentially at risk.
According to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection of California, it has no containment as of noon on Saturday.
According to the department, the fire’s activity was “extreme,” and emergency workers were fighting to safeguard buildings and evacuate residents.
The fire is being fought by more than 400 firemen with the aid of water-dropping aircraft, according to the department, but officials were quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying it could take a week to put out.
“Explosive fire behavior is challenging firefighters,” the department added on its website.
While shocked social media users shared pictures of billowing smoke plumes, climate scientist Daniel Swain tweeted that the fire was “exhibiting consistently extreme behavior.” The LA Times reported that the cloud rose as high as 30,000 feet in the sky.
Due to years of drought and a warming climate, large, scorching, and rapidly spreading wildfires have recently scorched California and other parts of the western United States.
Since more than a dozen US states were under a heat advisory, there was evidence of global warming elsewhere as well.
For at least the following five days, it was predicted that central US cities like Dallas and Oklahoma City will experience highs exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit (above 38 degrees Celsius).
Cities all along the northeast coast, from Boston to Philadelphia to Washington, are under a heat emergency.
Even the normally cool Pacific Northwest won’t be able to avoid the intense heat next week, as the area is predicted to have multiple days in the 90s.
Emergency calls for heat illness have already increased as a result of the high temperatures.
Meanwhile, cities have been compelled to establish cooling centers and expand outreach to vulnerable populations, including the homeless and those without access to air conditioning.
“This is really one of the things that we recognize in Oklahoma — heat is the number one weather-related killer across the United States. It far surpasses any other” nature-related cause of death, Joseph Kralicek, director of the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, told CNN.
The city’s residents anticipated Saturday’s high to be 103 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 106 degrees on Sunday and Monday.
On Saturday, temperatures in Washington, the nation’s capital, were expected to reach near or around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with New York not far after.
“Look for daytime max temps to eclipse the century mark in the Central Plains and record breaking high temps from the Central Plains to the Northeast today,” the National Weather Service said in a forecast.
“Sunday grows even hotter in the northeast,” it added.
According to the NWS, severe thunderstorms with the possibility of tornadoes, huge hail, and damaging winds are predicted Saturday in the Midwest.
Extreme heat waves have recently affected many parts of the world, including Western Europe in July and India in March–April. According to scientists, these occurrences are a blatant indication of climate change.