CA Firefighters Battle Wildfires in Extreme Heat

California firefighters stretch line during wildfire
Firefighters prepare to defend a home as flames from the River Fire approaches in Salinas, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. Fire crews across the region scrambled to contain dozens of blazes sparked by lightning strikes as a statewide heatwave continues. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California firefighters battled destructive wildfires Monday as a lengthening heat wave roasted the state.

Thousands of homes were at risk and air quality deteriorated in areas affected by smoke.

The National Weather Service blanketed the state in warnings of excessive heat and high fire danger, including the threat from lightning strikes.

“We are all experiencing rather extraordinary conditions,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, estimating there were about 15 fires statewide.

Newsom expressed optimism that most of the smaller ones would be suppressed relatively quickly.

Near California’s northern border with Nevada, a nearly 57-square-mile (148-square-kilometer) fire ignited by lightning near the community of Loyalton was 5% contained after destroying five homes and a half-dozen other structures, the Tahoe National Forest said.

Across the state line, school officials in Reno postponed Monday’s scheduled reopening of classrooms.

“As a result of the Loyalton Fire and the deteriorating air quality, we have made the decision that we cannot safely reopen our school district for our students and staff,” Washoe County School District Superintendent Kristen McNeill said in a message to families and staff.

In the mountains and desert of northern Los Angeles County, the 6-day-old Lake Fire was 31% contained after scorching nearly 29 square miles (75 square kilometers), said county Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

The blaze, which consumed thousands of acres of brush in its first few hours, had more moderate behavior by Sunday but about 4,500 homes remained at risk, Barger said.

A dozen structures, including homes, have been destroyed there.

Smoke from the Lake Fire and a smaller fire in mountains east of Los Angeles led regulators to declare unhealthy air quality for a wide area of suburbs.

Elsewhere, the 4-square-mile (10-square-kilometer) River Fire south of Salinas in Monterey County was 10% surrounded after damaging five structures.

Authorities reported four people injured since it was ignited by lightning on Sunday.

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