Hurricane Kay generated strong winds in eastern San Diego County.
Firefighters battling a major blaze on the outskirts of Los Angeles braced for a new hazard on Friday, in the form of flooding and mudslides that could be triggered by a tropical storm moving up from Mexico.
Downgraded from the hurricane category by the time it made landfall in Mexico on Thursday, Storm Kay then tracked north. It is likely to generate strong winds that could fan the blaze dubbed the Fairview fire, authorities have warned.
More than 10,000 hectares have already been consumed by the fire which broke out on Monday, in the midst of an extreme heat wave, and which continues to spread under the effect of extreme winds descending from the nearby mountains , explained the authorities.
One of the firefighters trying to contain the 'Fairview Fire' near Hemet, California.
In my entire career, I have never seen such a fire in Riverside County, commented John Crater, division chief of California Wildfire Services. It's a very tough fire.
Two people have already perished, trapped by the flames as they tried to flee the blaze.
The area to be evacuated has once again been enlarged, and now concerns more than 20,000 people. Authorities went door to door asking the most reluctant residents to leave the premises in order to take shelter.
In Northern California, the Mosquito Fire continues to ravage the area around Sacramento, and has already destroyed more than 12,000 hectares.
Firefighters have indicated that they do not control any of the fronts of this fire, which, according to them, has already destroyed several buildings.
The fire is burning in extremely difficult terrain, which includes very steep canyons, where it can be tough to battle the flames, California firefighting agency Cal Fire said in a statement. p>
In parallel, it is now the threat of Hurricane Kay, downgraded to a tropical storm, which is looming. This phenomenon should bring heavy rains to California and Arizona, as well as strong swells on the Pacific coast.
According to the US weather services, more than 18 centimeters of precipitation could fall, increasing the risk of flooding and mudslides in areas where scorched earth will not be able to absorb runoff.
Friday afternoon, this storm was already blowing over Southern California, gusting to more than 160 km/h.
It should put an end to the sweltering heat wave suffered for a week by the American West, where the mercury has sometimes curled 45°C, but temperatures will remain high in northern and central California.
Clouds are trapping warm surface air and about 29 million Americans are currently under an excessive heat alert, the National Weather Service has warned.
Dry air and wind are therefore likely to increase the risk of fire.
The American West is hit by more than twodecades of devastating drought, aggravated by climate change due to the continued use of fossil fuels.