The dry heat on Wednesday – the first day of fall – sparked heat warnings and set the stage for a multitude of fires that grew out of southern California.
And with the rising temperatures, the number of fire disasters also increased.
First came a small bushfire around 11 a.m. that burned near baseball fields and several schools in Perris Hill Park in San Bernardino, the San Bernardino County Fire Department said. The fire brigade was able to keep the fire on five hectares. Temperature: 93 degrees.
At around 11:30 p.m., just two miles north, sparks from a vehicle with a flat tire landed in vegetation, igniting the university fire, which forced residents of more than 100 San Bernardino homes and businesses to flee from the oncoming flames , announced the authorities. Temperature: 94 degrees.
In the next few hours, the fire grew from two hectares to 100 hectares, with the flames creeping closer towards the foothills, said the district fire department. Some flames broke out just behind some houses as their owners set garden hoses into the dry, yellow grass. Temperature: 97 degrees.
At around 1 p.m., another fire broke out on the roof of a California State University building in San Bernardino. The fire lit while roofers were working on the campus’s visual arts building. A fire brigade put out the fire before the flames penetrated the building. Temperature: 98 degrees.
East in Riverside County in San Jacinto, a stack of cardboard boxes caught fire at a commercial intersection in the city, said April Newman, a spokesman for the Cal Fire / Riverside County Fire Department. The temperature had reached 99 degrees around the time of the small garbage fire. The cause of the fire was still the subject of the investigation.
Elsewhere in the region, in Los Angeles County, National Weather Service officials warned of increased fire conditions in areas with high temperatures and gusty winds such as the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and San Gabriel valleys.
Just before 4 p.m., a bushfire broke out in a grassy hill near Chatsworth Park South in the San Fernando Valley, where temperatures had reached 101 degrees and winds were blowing at 20 miles per hour, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. The fire would burn nine acres.
In the coastal areas of the region in the Orange and Los Angeles counties, the weather was far less intense. But the temperatures remained nasty: On the beach, people felt the 70 degree weather; move just a mile inland, temperatures soared well into the 80s.
The hottest city in the area was Palm Springs, where afternoon temperatures rose to 108 degrees. No temperature records have been broken in the region.
As temperatures dropped to the lower 90s in San Bernardino late Wednesday afternoon, firefighters were able to get the university fire under control and allow residents to return to their homes.
While most fires should be put out by Wednesday evening, the heat should continue on Thursday. However, a weather system blowing in from Idaho will bring a slight cool down into the weekend, said Philip Gonsalves, a meteorologist with the National Weather Services office in San Diego.
Real recovery from the heat is not expected until early next week when an Alaskan weather system hits along the west coast, Gonsalves said.
No temperatures above 80 degrees are forecast until the middle of next week, even in the hottest areas of the region, he said.