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SACRAMENTO, Calif.: It was sweltering in rural California on Tuesday, and it’s only going to get worse during the Fourth of July holiday week in parts of the United States, with nearly 90 million people under heat warnings.
According to the National Weather Service, the stormy conditions were caused by a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and a separate ridge that prompted heat warnings and advisories from Kansas and Missouri to the Gulf Coast states.
California’s capital, Sacramento, is under an excessive heat warning until Sunday night, with temperatures forecast to range between 105 and 115 degrees (40.5 and 46.1 degrees Celsius).
John Mendoza, 35, called it a “heat fire” as he strolled through the Capitol Tuesday with an iced coffee in hand. By 9 a.m., he’d already been in the pool once — and planned to go back later in the day.
“I felt like I had to immerse myself in water,” she said.
About 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Sacramento, crews in scorching conditions battled a wildfire in Butte County that forced the evacuation of about 13,000 people in and around Oroville. Dubbed the Thompson Fire, the fire broke out before noon and emitted a huge plume of smoke as it quickly grew to more than 3 square miles (7.7 square kilometers) by evening without containment.
Firefighters lined roads and tried to prevent the flames from reaching homes, while helicopters dropped water on the fast-spreading blaze.
The governor’s office announced late Tuesday that federal funding had been approved to support firefighting efforts. Earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom activated the State Operations Center to coordinate California’s response efforts, provide mutual aid and support local communities in responding to the threat of wildfires and excessive heat.
As the temperature soared in Sacramento, Katherine Powers sought refuge in the shade of Cathedral Square. Powers, who is homeless, sipped champagne while resting barefoot on the shaded sidewalk.
Powers said he lent his shoes to a friend. He has yet to visit any of Sacramento County’s nine “cooling centers” because of the difficulty of bringing all the possessions he has.
“I go to a park with a fountain just to keep cool and stay in the shade and basically have water thrown on me all the time,” she said. “There’s not much I can do.”
Fairfield resident Darlene Crumedy said she doesn’t use air conditioning because it’s too expensive.
“I’m fine, I have a hundred fans,” he said, adding that he was trying to stay indoors and drink cold water.
According to an Associated Press analysis, more than 2,300 people died in the heat last year in the United States, a record. That number is likely a significant undercount, dozens of experts told AP reporters.
Dr. Arthur Jey, an emergency physician at Sutter Health in Sacramento, told reporters it’s important to get out of the heat, wear a hat and loose clothing, stay hydrated and watch for signs of heatstroke.
“Heat stroke looks like a stroke,” Jey said, describing symptoms that can include unusual behavior, significant headaches, blurred vision, profuse sweating, and then no sweating.
“And that’s a big deal,” Jey said. “So we want to prevent them from getting near the heat stroke.”
In California, the heat is expected to spread from north to south this week, with the worst concentrated in interior areas, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys and the southern deserts. However, the warnings also extended near the coast.
San Francisco, known for its cool summers, was forecast to have highs Tuesday in the upper 80s (31C) downtown but in the mid-60s (18.3C) at Ocean Beach.
“The high-pressure dome will remain over California for at least a week, and longer-range guidance suggests the timeline may be optimistic,” the Bay Area Weather Bureau wrote.
The heat came with gusty, dry winds to the northern part of the state, where Pacific Gas & Electric implemented public safety power outages in parts of 10 counties to prevent wildfires caused by downed or damaged power lines.
About 12,000 customers were told they could turn off power and given information about centers where they could get ice, water, snacks, Wi-Fi and other necessities, PG&E said.
California saw a flurry of wildfires in the spring and early summer, feeding on abundant grass from back-to-back wet winters. The largest current blaze, the Basin Fire, is 17 percent contained after charring more than 21 square miles (54 square kilometers) of the Sierra National Forest in eastern Fresno County since it broke out on June 26.

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