A blistering heat wave across California is forecasted to exacerbate an already explosive blaze in Los Angeles County, fire officials said Friday.
The Lake fire along Lake Hughes now spans more than 11,000 acres since igniting Wednesday. It had already been growing with the help of other fire-friendly conditions, the U.S. Forest Service and the county fire department reported Friday morning.
“Poor overnight humidity recovery allowed the fire to remain active” and was intensified by “critically dry fuels,” the agencies said. Plant life soaked by storms in the spring is now tinder dry, and that will only get worse with the approaching heat. Now, the Lake Hughes area is expected to reach temperature highs in the low 100s for the next week.
“Warmer and drier conditions are forecasted for today as an excessive heat warning takes effect at 11 a.m.,” the agencies said. “Near critical fire weather conditions could develop this afternoon and evening, as gusty onshore winds could combine with warm and dry conditions in place.”
This could be the start of yet another dangerous fire season in California, which experts have predicted.
“We’re getting to the most critical part ... after a long, hot, dry summer,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Darrell Osby told reporters Thursday.
The Lake fire threatens more than 5,000 structures and has already destroyed five, authorities said Friday. So far, only 12% of the blaze is contained.
This is one of the biggest wildfires to hit during the coronavirus pandemic, which complicates evacuation strategies. The Red Cross, which is managing an evacuation site in the area, requires all evacuees to stay in their cars. Anyone who needs a place to stay overnight will be placed in safe housing.
The inferno has also contributed to unhealthy air quality throughout the region. Los Angeles County is urging people to stay indoors in a number of areas affected by the smoke.