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SACRAMENTO, Calif.: Swaths of California were sweltering Tuesday and conditions were only expected to worsen during the July 4 holiday week in parts of the United States, with nearly 90 million people under heat warnings.
The hot conditions were caused by a ridge of high pressure just off the West Coast and a separate ridge that brought heat warnings and advisories from Kansas and Missouri to the Gulf Coast states, according to the National Weather Service.
California’s capital, Sacramento, has been placed under a heat warning that will last until Sunday night, with temperatures forecast to reach 105 to 115 degrees (40.5 to 46.1 Celsius).
John Mendoza, 35, called it a “hot spot” as he walked around the Capitol Tuesday with an iced coffee in hand. At nine in the morning he had already been in the pool once – and planned to return later in the day.
“I felt like I needed to dive into the water,” he said.
About 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Sacramento, crews working in scorching conditions battled a wildfire in Butte County that forced the evacuation of about 13,000 people in and around Oroville. Dubbed the Thompson Fire, the blaze broke out before noon and sent up a huge plume of smoke as it quickly grew to more than 7.7 square kilometers by evening, with zero containment.
Firefighters lined roads trying to keep the flames from reaching homes as helicopters dropped water on the fast-moving blaze.
The governor’s office announced late Tuesday that federal funding had been approved to help fight the fires. Earlier this week, Governor Gavin Newsom activated the State Operations Center to coordinate California’s response, provide mutual aid and support local communities as they respond to wildfire threats and excessive heat.
As the temperatures in Sacramento rose, Katherine Powers sought refuge in the shadows of Cathedral Square. Powers, who is homeless, sipped sparkling water while resting her bare feet on the shaded sidewalk.
Powers said she lent her shoes to a friend. She has yet to visit one of the nine “cooling centers in Sacramento County,” she said, because it was difficult to bring all the possessions she carries with her.
“I just go to the park with the water fountain to stay cool, stay in the shade and basically keep pouring water on me,” she said. “There’s not too much I can do.
Darlene Crumedy, who lives in Fairfield, said she doesn’t use air conditioning because it’s too expensive.
“I’m good, I have a hundred fans,” she said, adding that she was trying to stay indoors and drink cold water.
An Associated Press analysis found that heatwaves killed more than 2,300 people in the United States last year, a record. This number is likely to be significantly underestimated, dozens of experts told AP reporters.
dr. Arthur Jey, an emergency room physician at Sutter Health in Sacramento, told reporters it’s important to get out of the heat, along with wearing a hat and loose clothing, staying hydrated and watching for signs of heatstroke.
“With heatstroke, it looks like a stroke,” Jey said, describing symptoms that can include unusual behavior, severe headaches, blurred vision, excessive sweating, and then no sweating.
“And that’s a really big deal,” Jey said. “So we want to prevent them from getting even close to heatstroke.”
California’s heatwave was expected to spread from north to south during the week, with the worst of it concentrated inland, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys and the southern deserts. But the warnings extended just offshore.
Forecasters said San Francisco, known for its cool summers, would be in the 80s (31C) downtown on Tuesday but in the mid-60s (18.3C) at Ocean Beach.
“A high-pressure dome will persist over California for at least a week, with additional long-range guidance indicating that the timeline may even be optimistic,” the Bay Area Weather Bureau wrote.
The heat arrived with gusty, dry winds in the northern part of the state, where Pacific Gas & Electric imposed a public safety power outage in parts of 10 counties to prevent fires from falling or damaged power lines.
About 12,000 customers were told their power could be out and given information about centers where they could get ice, water, snacks, Wi-Fi and other necessities, PG&E said.
California experienced a number of wildfires in the spring and early summer, fueled by abundant grasses spawned by wet winters. The current largest blaze, called the Basin Fire, is 17 percent contained after burning more than 21 square miles (54 square kilometers) of the Sierra National Forest in eastern Fresno County since June 26.

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