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Forest fires in California drive additional evacuations in document warmth and lightning strikes

Thousands of people in California are on evacuation orders as dozens of major forest fires ravaged parts of the state with a relentless heatwave and high winds on Wednesday, making the fire difficult to fight.

Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency during evacuations and power outages and called on the California National Guard to help with relief efforts. The Sonoma County authorities warned of "immediate death" from the ongoing fires.

Vehicles catch fire in front of a burning house along Peaceful Glen Road during the Hennessy Fire in Solano County, California on Wednesday, August 19, 2020.

Philip Pacheco | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Residents in parts of northern California, including Napa and Sonoma counties, San Mateo and Santa Cruz, were urgently evacuated Wednesday morning. The LNU Lightning Complex Fire burned 32,000 acres in Sonoma, Lake, Napa and Solano Counties and destroyed some homes.

The more than two dozen major fires across the state are made worse by an extreme heat wave that began over the weekend. Recently, California's Death Valley set a temperature of 54 degrees Celsius, the hottest US temperature in at least 107 years.

The extreme heat and drought is powered by a heat dome or high pressure system that pushes air down from above, which then compresses and warms near land. Heat domes are likely to be heavier as the climate changes.

Climate change is driving hotter and more frequent heat waves around the world and causing increasingly severe forest fires. In the United States, California has seen the worst destruction, including the Thomas Fire in 2017 and the Camp Fire in 2018, which killed more than 100 people and made tens of thousands homeless.

Newsom said Wednesday that 10,849 lightning strikes have struck California in the past 72 hours, which helped ignite a large portion of the 367 known fires across the state.

"What has happened in the last 72 hours has certainly drained resources … that is, we are in a much better place in terms of readiness," said the governor.

In this long exposure photo, flames consume both sides of a section of Lake Berryessa during the Hennessey fire at the Spanish apartment in Napa, California on August 18, 2020.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

People stand next to flames rising from the ranch fire in the mountains of San Gabriel above Azusa, 25 miles east of Los Angeles, California, on Aug. 14, 2020.

Apu Gomes | AFP | Getty Images

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