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California hit by widespread wildfires amid heatwave

LOS ANGELES The first major wildfires after the end of California's five-year drought raged across the state at the weekend, as it was gripped by a record-breaking heatwave.

About 3,000 firefighters were battling several blazes with triple-digit temperatures recorded in valleys and inland areas.

A wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento was only 2 per cent contained by early evening on Saturday and had destroyed 10 homes, scorching 800 hectares of forest and sparking evacuations and road closures.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said five residents and a firefighter had sustained minor injuries.

EVACUATIONS

Meanwhile, a blaze that forced evacuations in San Luis Obispo County tripled in size from Saturday morning to 7,690ha by the evening. Fanned by hot, dry winds, it was just 10 per cent contained, Cal Fire said.

Some 17 wildfires in various states of containment were burning in California, from the Six Rivers National Forest in the north to the San Bernardino Forest east of Los Angeles.

Downtown Los Angeles tied the 1954 record of 36 deg C while the city's north-western suburb of Woodland Hills reached a high of 42.7 deg C.

The National Weather Service attributed the heatwave to a "strong upper-level high-pressure system centred over the desert south-west", adding that the heatwave could continue.

California Governor Jerry Brown in April declared the official end of the state's drought that lasted more than five years.

But he kept in place water reporting requirements, as well as bans on practices like watering during or following rainfall and hosing off sidewalks.

- AFP

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