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The Southwest US is facing its first heat wave of the season and could set records

PHOENIX – Parts of California, Nevada and Arizona are expected to warm up this week as the first heat wave of the season arrives with triple-digit temperatures forecast for areas like Phoenix, which saw a record 31 consecutive days of at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit last summer (43.3 Celsius).

On Wednesday, most of an area stretching from Southeastern California to Central Arizona will experience “easily the hottest” weather since September of last year, and record daily highs will be at risk from Las Vegas to Phoenix, the National Weather Service said late Monday.

Extreme heat warnings have been issued from 10 a.m. Wednesday to 8 p.m. Friday due to “dangerously warm conditions,” the weather service said.

Firefighters will be on high alert, especially in Arizona, where fire restrictions went into effect in some areas ahead of Memorial Day. They will be ordered in most of the western and south-central parts of the state on Thursday, authorities said.

Fire forecasters at the Southwest Coordination Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said the region’s weather typically doesn’t get this hot until mid- to late June.

“It appears Mother Nature is turning up the pressure on us a little earlier than usual,” Tiffany Davila, spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, said Monday evening.

“We can’t shy away from a fire just because it’s 113 degrees outside. But we keep a close eye on everyone in the field. Make sure they stay hydrated and take more breaks than normal,” she told the Associated Press.

The unofficial temperature reaches 108 degrees at dusk at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix on July 12, 2023. Parts of California, Nevada and Arizona are expected to warm this week as the first heat wave of the season arrives with triple-digit temperatures forecast for areas including Phoenix, which saw a record 31 consecutive days of at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) last summer. Credit: AP/Matt York

Highs on Monday reached 110°F (43.3°C) in California’s Death Valley National Park near the Nevada line, 103°F (39.4°C) in Phoenix and 105°F (40.5°C) in Needles, California.

Slightly above normal temperatures are forecast for the region on Tuesday before starting to warm on Wednesday.

In Las Vegas, where the high reached 103 F (39.4 C) on Monday, temperatures will rise to 10 – 15 degrees above normal in the second half of the week, peaking at 111 (43.8 C) on Thursday.

A high of 120 F (48.8) is expected Thursday at Furnace Creek in Death Valley.

A hiker passes a sign warning of extreme heat at the start of the Golden Canyon trail, in Death Valley National Park, California, July 11, 2023. Parts of California, Nevada and Arizona are expected to bake this week as the first heat wave of the season comes with triple-digit temperatures forecast for areas like Phoenix, which saw a record 31 consecutive days of at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) last summer. Credit: AP/Ty ONeil

The current forecast high temperature of 113°F (45°C) for Phoenix on Thursday would break the 2016 daily record high of 111°F (43.8°C). Last summer, the maximum temperature there reached 110 F (43.3 C) or higher from the previous summer. day from June to the entire month of July. At least 400 of the 645 heat-related deaths that occurred last year occurred in that one-month period.

Phoenix, Maricopa County and Arizona state officials are aiming this year to better protect people from increasingly hot temperatures. Those most at risk from the heat are people outdoors, especially homeless people in the inner city, who often don’t have access to adequate shade, air conditioning and cold water.

Governments are setting aside more money this year to allow some cooling stations to stay open longer and on weekends, including two that keep their doors open at night.

Mayor John Giles of Mesa, Arizona, said they are “committed to ensuring that those most vulnerable to heat exposure have access to essential life-saving services, including hydration and cooling stations and day care centers.”

Additional fire restrictions taking effect Thursday on Bureau of Land Management properties in Arizona will come with a ban on campfires, open fires and recreational shooting in some areas, BLM spokesman Delores Garcia said.

“As the heat increases, so does the threat of wildfires,” she said.

“We noticed that the effects of the winter and early spring rains really helped the vegetation grow and the higher heat just healed that vegetation. That’s what we see as the driving factor. And then there’s a wind on top of that,” Garcia said.

Meanwhile, California’s largest wildfire so far this year was largely encircled Monday after a swath of hilly grasslands between San Francisco Bay and the Central Valley turned black.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the Corral Fire was 75% contained after scorching more than 35 square miles.

One house was destroyed and two firefighters were injured. The wind-driven fire broke out Saturday afternoon and at one point thousands of people were under evacuation orders.