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Harmful warmth wave hits California on the weekend as forest fires are nonetheless burning

Greg Berndt takes a selfie as the thermometer at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley, California, United States, reads 131 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius) on August 17, 2020.

David Becker | Reuters

A dangerous heat wave is set to hit California over the weekend, causing one of the hottest days in the state's history.

Sunday temperatures in parts of Los Angeles could range between 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit as forecasters warn the heat will be "exceptionally dangerous" and potentially fatal, according to the county's National Weather Service. In cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas, temperatures could also reach 104 to 117 degrees.

"The very hot conditions tomorrow through Labor Day will increase the risk of major fire activity, including fires with large vertical growth," warned the National Weather Service in Los Angeles.

In the past few weeks, the state has fought more than 875 forest fires that have burned around 1.5 million acres. Tens of thousands of people still cannot return to their homes. Temperatures broke records in mid-August while dozens of wildfires burned, two of which are the second and third largest fires in California history and are still active.

The state also expects nighttime temperatures in Los Angeles to be between the mid-70s and mid-80s, which is a dangerous combination of high day and night temperatures that doesn't give the body a chance to cool off at night.

On Thursday, August 20, 2020, people sift through items in a house that was burned by the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex in Vacaville, California, United States. More than 360 flames burn California, forcing mass evacuations in the northern part of the state and creating an air quality emergency.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"The extreme heat in many parts of California will peak this Sunday. Heat kills," warned the World Meteorological Organization on Friday.

In the US, heat kills more people than any other weather disaster, including floods and hurricanes. Heat waves and droughts are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change and have contributed to more extreme fires. Globally, every decade for the past 60 years has been hotter than the last.

"I am seriously concerned about this heat wave across California," said UCLA climate researcher Daniel Swain. "All-time record highs are plausible in Central Valley (and) parts of SoCal. Over a million acres are active in NorCal and we are still in the midst of a pandemic."

Excessive heat warnings are in place in areas in Arizona, Nevada, and much of California.

"Be prepared now. Have a plan in case the power goes out," wrote climate researcher Eric Holthaus. "This heat is going to be potentially fatal, regardless of your health."

A photographer takes a photo of the thermometer, which reads 55.5 degrees Celsius at the Furance Creek visitor station in Death Valley National Park, California on August 17, 2020.

David Becker | Reuters

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