A violent wildfire raged Wednesday in northern California, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate this area of ​​the American West hit by an exceptionally “dangerous” heat wave, according to meteorologists.

On the scene, firefighters battle to protect houses surrounded by burning trees, while helicopters and water bombers tackle the flames. Further away, the charred rubble of buildings still smokes.

Already more than 1,400 hectares of grasslands and forest have been consumed since Tuesday near Oroville, where authorities have asked more than 10,000 people to leave as the western United States braces for a long and intense heatwave.

This blaze is striking just a few dozen kilometers from Paradise, a town hit in 2018 by the deadliest fire in the history of this American state with 85 deaths.

The approximately 1,400 firefighters battling the flames, aided by planes and helicopters, are facing very difficult conditions, warned local fire chief Garrett Sjolund.

“The brush is dry, and as you can see, any gust of wind will push the fire forward very quickly,” he warned.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency so he can mobilize more resources.

More than 25,000 people are under evacuation orders, according to local NBC affiliate KCRA.

“We are using every tool available to fight this fire and will continue to work closely with our local and federal partners to support impacted communities,” the governor said.

“As we enter the most challenging months of wildfire season, the state is better prepared than ever to protect at-risk communities with new tools, new technologies and new resources,” he added.

– Fireworks alert –

Despite having enjoyed very rainy winters in the last two years, the American West has been suffering from drought for about twenty years. And the summer of 2024 is already shaping up to be very hot and dry. However, the recent excess precipitation has favored vegetation, which, once dried out, turns into fuel for the flames.

Added to this context is a very special week in the United States, that of the national holiday of July 4, traditionally celebrated by Americans with their own fireworks – a nightmare for firefighters.

With four fires already burning in Butte County, “it's a bad season for fires,” said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

“The last thing we want is for someone who bought fireworks next door to go and do something stupid. Don't be stupid,” he urged.

– “Scorching heat” for the bank holiday weekend –

The fire is raging as a heatwave hits the region, with temperatures expected to reach 46°C in the coming days, with the long weekend in the United States including the Independence Day on Thursday, July 4.

“Dangerous, record-breaking heat is forecast for this July 4 weekend across the West,” as well as “from the southern plains to the central east” of the country, the National Weather Service (NWS) wrote. Nearly 150 million residents in 21 states are under various levels of heatwave alerts across all 50 states.

“Dozens of records are possible, showing the rarity of such a heat wave in early July,” the NWS added, stressing that the duration of this heat wave, which could extend into next week, is “worrying.”

Last year was the hottest on record globally, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2024 has a 50% chance of breaking that record.

Repeated heat waves are a marker of global warming linked to climate change, scientists insist.

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