California is so hot and dry that not even soaking rain can ease fall fire peril.
Wildfires there have killed at least two people and burned more than 12 square miles, the biggest in at least a year.
The National Weather Service in Sacramento has issued a “heat index warning” in parts of the state, warning of “extremely high temperatures, combined with intense, gusty winds, creating life-threatening fire danger,” the agency said in a statement Monday.
State officials, citing the threat to life and property, urged residents not to leave buildings vulnerable to high flames.
As if to reinforce the warnings, the agency said fires had consumed about 300,000 acres, the most since the end of July, with more than 2,000 wildfires reported in California.
But there is a silver lining: The agency said the fires were under control.
“We have an extremely good working relationship with the firefighters and we don’t want to lose that,” said Matt Zeller, the National Weather Service forecaster in Sacramento.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene of a massive fire in northern California said the winds that fed the flames had died and the blaze remained out of control.
With no rain expected for several days, the situation is “more critical than it ever has been and more critical than it ever will be,” he said.
The cause of the fires is not clear. It’s also unclear if the conditions that fueled the flames are part of a pattern.
However, some analysts say the dry conditions could be part of a natural pattern.
There are factors contributing to the fires — including a lack of rain and a lack of vegetation — but some analysts say there is also a natural fire cycle that occurs when the drought ends, leaving the landscape drier.
“When that happens, we’re likely into a drier stage, and that’s when these fires start,” said Eric Holthaus, a senior research associate at the Sacramento-based Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
While there is plenty of fuel for a fire, Holthaus said the dry conditions combined with drought