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California wildfires spread amid record heat

An aerial view of thick smoke rising among green mountains
Firefighters battled the Peak fire, which burned over 30 acres in San Bernardino County, closing Highway 18 for hours.
(KTLA)

As the West contends with sweltering conditions and record-breaking heat, firefighters on Monday were battling three large wildfires in Kern, Siskiyou and San Bernardino counties.

Lava fire - Siskiyou County

By Monday afternoon, 8,000 to 10,000 residents were under evacuation orders for the Lava fire, according to Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue. The fire was sparked by lightning Saturday morning in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Siskiyou County near the Oregon border.

It was “very active” overnight, Shasta-Trinity National Forest spokeswoman Suzi Johnson said, and had mushroomed to 1,446 acres with 20% containment by Monday morning.

Oregon and other parts of the Pacific Northwest are experiencing an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures soaring into the triple digits again on Monday, according to the National Weather Service. A red flag warning advising of gusty winds and low relative humidity was issued in Siskiyou County.

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“The temperatures have been an extreme challenge, and today is going to be a challenging day as well,” Johnson said Monday morning.

Lava fire crews were contending with treacherous conditions as they worked to contain the flames. The terrain is rocky, with limited road access, so firefighters must walk up to the fire line, Johnson said. There are limited water resources close to the blaze.

Evacuation warnings for Angel Valley Road, Carrick Addition and Solus Drive along State Route 97 north of Weed remained in effect Monday, she said.

By early afternoon, evacuation orders were issued for those living on the north side of Hoy Road, north along Highway 97 to County Road A12, and the communities of Lake Shastina and Juniper Valley off Big Springs Road, from Highway 97 to McDonald Lane, on both the east and west sides of Big Springs Road, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department tweeted.

Evacuation orders were later expanded for the Mount Shasta Vista subdivision, both sides of County Road A12 and Harry Cash Road.

Late Monday afternoon, the fire had jumped Highway 97, which was closed between the city of Weed and Juniper Lodge, a roughly 30-mile stretch.

Shell fire - Kern County

The Shell fire began in Kern County about 1 p.m. Sunday and quickly ballooned in size, officials said.

By Monday evening, the fire had reached more than 1,900 acres, according to the Kern County Fire Department. Containment was at 50%.

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The blaze was sparked by a vehicle fire that ignited surrounding vegetation, Freeborn said.

More than 200 personnel were attacking the fire from the air and the ground Monday, with more resources on the way. The U.S. Forest Service, the state Bureau of Land Management and the Ventura County Fire Department were all responding to the blaze, officials said on Twitter.

Peak fire - San Bernardino County

And in San Bernardino County, a fast-moving blaze on Old Waterman Canyon Road closed Highway 18 from Highway 138 to 40th Street late Monday morning, according to a San Bernardino National Forest tweet. Residents were advised to avoid Waterman Canyon.

The vegetation fire was reported on emergency-monitoring app PulsePoint about 10:49 a.m. By about 1 p.m., the newly named Peak fire had tripled from about 10 acres to 34 acres, according to the San Bernardino National Forest officials.

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San Bernardino County firefighters were helping battle the blaze, and forest officials said about 2 p.m. the forward rate of spread had been stopped.

Monsoon storms Tuesday through Thursday could bring dangerous lightning strikes, which have the potential to start fires amid hot, bone-dry conditions.

State leaders in climate change and water resources warn that California’s drought is already causing dire conditions for people, plants, animals and land.

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