BEIJING, July 17 (Xinhuanet) -- Nearly 4,000 firefighters struggled to quell wildfires raging through huge areas of California Sunday as the state sweltered under record temperatures.
|An airplane drops flame retardant on the ground to control a wildfire near Morongo Valley, Calif., about 120 miles east of Los Angeles, on Friday, July 14, 2006. (Xinhua Photo/Reuters) |
Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in the scorched area 160 kilometers east of Los Angeles, where blazes had destroyed scores of homes and claimed at least one life.
Meanwhile, weather forecast showed no sign of let-up in the unseasonable heat that has sent thermometers soaring to record highs of 50 C in inland areas.
According to meteorologists, the state has effectively "skipped spring," jumping straight to the blistering highs normally confined to late summer.
Nationwide, the first half of the year was the warmest since record-keeping began. By last month, almost half of the continental states were in a state of moderate to extreme drought.
The drought spell has so far sparked more than 50,000 wildfires, burning more than three million acres in the continental U.S., according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
The dry conditions are blamed on hot air from northern Mexican deserts combining with moisture from the Gulf of California to break what is known as southern California's natural air conditioner, a blend of sea breezes and cloud cover that keep temperatures cool throughout late spring and early summer.
In California's San Bernardino National Forest, fire crews endured temperatures of 44.4 C in struggles to contain a huge complex of fires ignited a week ago by lightning striking arid brush.
Two clusters of blazes merged to blacken a vast area around the Yucca Valley, destroying more than 50 desert homes.
The fires had burned into the San Bernardino National Forest but were not considered immediate threats to communities at higher elevations in the Big Bear Lake region.
"It is a huge fire. It is extraordinary how quickly it has spread," said Schwarzenegger during a visit to the area. "It is a very dangerous situation. Wind and a lot of heat, that is the perfect condition for wildfires."
On Saturday, the body of a 57-year-old man, Gerald Guthrie, was found in a blackened part of the desert. He had been missing since Tuesday, when fire swept through his home of Pioneertown. Enditem
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