Dangerously hot conditions expected as heatwave strikes south-west US | Extreme heat

Parts of California, Nevada and Arizona are expected to bake this week as the first heatwave of the season arrives with triple-digit temperatures forecast for areas including Phoenix, which last summer saw a record 31 straight days of at least 110F (43.3C).

By Wednesday, most of an area stretching from south-east California to central Arizona will see “easily their hottest” weather since last September, and record daily highs could be seen from Las Vegas to Phoenix, the National Weather Service said late on Monday.

Excessive heat warnings have been issued from 10am Wednesday to 8pm Friday due to the “dangerously hot conditions”, the weather service said.

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

Fire forecasters at the Southwest Coordination Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said weather in the region does not typically become so hot until mid- or late June.

“It does seem like Mother Nature is turning up the heat on us a little sooner than usual,” Tiffany Davila, spokesperson for the Arizona department of forestry and fire management, said on Monday evening.

Highs on Monday reached 110F (43.3C) at Death Valley national park in California near the Nevada border, 103F (39.4C) in Phoenix and 105F (40.5C) in Needles, California.

Slightly above normal temperatures are forecast for the region on Tuesday before they start heating up on Wednesday.

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

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

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

Phoenix, Maricopa county and Arizona state officials this year are striving to better protect people from ever higher temperatures. Those most in danger from the heat are people outdoors, especially homeless people in downtown areas who often do not have access to sufficient shade, air conditioning and cold water.

Governments this year are setting aside more money so some cooling stations can stay open longer and on the weekends, including two that will keep their doors open overnight.

Meanwhile, California’s largest wildfire so far this year was significantly surrounded on Monday after blackening a swath of hilly grasslands between San Francisco Bay and the Central Valley.

The California department of forestry and fire protection said the Corral fire was 75% contained after scorching more than 22 sq miles (57 sq km).

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

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