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Wildfires surge amid scorching heat across US West

Published:Sunday | September 3, 2017 | 12:00 AM


Ash rained down across Los Angeles Sunday from a destructive wildfire that the mayor said was the largest in city history one of several blazes that sent thousands fleeing homes across the US West during a blistering holiday weekend heatwave.

In Oregon, about 140 hikers were awaiting rescue early Sunday after being forced to spend the night in the woods after fire broke out along the popular Columbia River Gorge trail. Search-and-rescue crews air-dropped supplies on Saturday as flames prevented the hikers' escape. Wildfires also entered a 2,700-year-old grove of giant sequoia trees near Yosemite National Park and have driven people from their homes in Montana and other areas struggling with a weeklong heatwave that has gripped the region.

In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed a state of emergency across all counties as three major fires closed recreation areas and prompted evacuations in a mountain town just southeast of Seattle.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a local emergency and asked the governor to do the same after a wildfire in densely populated hillside areas destroyed three homes. Hundreds of firefighters battled flames that chewed through nearly 8 square miles (20 kilometers) of brush-covered mountains as authorities issued mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders for more than 700 homes in Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale.

Los Angeles resident Tracy Goldman had her car packed in case officials ordered her street to evacuate.

"It's very unsettling," she said by telephone as she watched flames that she said had reached within 200 feet of her house.

Tourists snapped shots of their planes landing against a backdrop of orange flames in the hills near Hollywood Burbank airport.

San Francisco on Saturday set a heat record for the day before noon, hitting 94 degrees. By the afternoon it was 101 in the coastal city hotter than Phoenix. With an all-time high of 106 on Friday, it became just the third time since the 1870s that San Francisco had back-to-back triple-digit days.

Temperatures reached 115 south of the city. It was a rare heat wave at a time of year that San Francisco residents usually call "Fogust" for its cloudy chill.

The weekend also broke heat records in wine counties north of San Francisco, where Labor Day for some vineyards marks the start of the busy grape harvest.

"We had been hoping for a mellow season," Kat Doescher, senior winemaker at Madrone Estate Winery outside Sonoma, said shortly after sunrise. "But I look at the forecasts, and I see a heat wave that's not getting any cooler."