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California fires spread quickly in record-breaking heat

Firefighters are struggling to contain wildfires in the US state of California, with heat and dry wind fanning the flames. One of the fires temporarily trapped scores of children and their summer camp counselors.

A wildfire was spreading through Santa Barbara County and was "completely out of control" after starting on Saturday, Fire Chief Dave Zaniboni said.

The fire trapped around 90 children and 50 counselors at the Circle V Ranch, a Californian summer camp, before they were evacuated.

Another fire in the same area forced residents of 200 homes to evacuate. The blaze tripled in size in some eight hours, covering an area of some 77 square kilometers (30 square miles), firefighter spokesman Kirk Sturm said.

In Northern California, firefighters were also battling a separate blaze that swept through grassy foothills and destroyed 10 structures in Butte County. The fire prompted authorities to issue an evacuation order for 250 homes threatened by fire.

Kalifornien Feuer Santa Maria (Reuters/M.Eliason)

Some 3,000 firefighters were deployed in California

LA heat breaks records

Over a dozen other fires were raging elsewhere in the state, fanned by hot dry winds, as California faced record-breaking heat. Hot weather also fueled blazes in other American states and in Canada.

Weather experts say that temperatures reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36.7 Celsius) in downtown Los Angeles,  breaking a 131-year-old record. The previous record of 35 degrees Celsius was set in 1886, according to the National Weather Service. The high temperatures were expected to create "dangerous and potentially life-threatening" situations in more inland sections of California, they added.

The wealthy US state is still reeling from a severe five-year drought. The crisis was declared over in April this year, following rain and snowfall. Some bans on water consumption remain in place, however.

California wasn't the only region along the west coast to be hit by wildfires. Extremely dry weather and fanning winds in the Canadian province of British Columbia saw fierce flames spread across large areas, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate their homes and prompting the provincial government to declare a state of emergency.

dj/tj (AP, AFP)

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