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Scorching heat threatens to propel California wildfires

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Firefighters in California continue to battle growing wildfires amid a record-breaking heat wave and predictions of storms that could make things worse.

Already, hundreds of homes have been evacuated as the blazes continued to grow Sunday.

The Whittier Fire in Santa Barbara County has claimed more than 7,800 acres, the county tweeted about 7:15 a.m.

The blaze near Los Padres National Forest began Saturday and expanded quickly, county spokeswoman Gina DePinto said. Its cause was unknown.

More than 13 million people remain under heat warnings and advisories Sunday, meteorologist Haley Brink said. Temperatures could range between the upper 90s and 110s.

More than 40 high-temperature records were set or tied Saturday across the West, including in Los Angeles; Las Vegas; Helena, Montana; and Boise, Idaho.

Isolated thunderstorms could produce lightning with very little rain Sunday, so new fires could be started over much of the West, Brink said.

Wildfires burning near a California recreation area have prompted new evacuation calls, according to Santa Barbara County officials.

The Whittier blaze caused at least 2,000 people to evacuate Saturday, including at least 60 campers who were attending the Circle V Ranch, a popular summer camp, DePinto said.

All campers and staff were safe, organizers said in a message posted on social media.

KEYT tweeted a video taken from inside a vehicle driving through the smoke.

The flames spread to several recreational areas such as Camp Whittier and Lake Cachuma, forcing visitors to abandon tents, RVs and boats.

A sheriff’s vehicle was also destroyed east of Lake Cachuma but the deputy was not hurt, a county spokesman said on Twitter.

The fire is believed to have started Saturday around 1:45 p.m. at Camp Whittier.

Sunday’s temperatures will approach 95 degrees, forecasters said, with little chance of rain.

Farther north in the county, a separate fire grew Sunday to about 24,000 acres off California Highway 166 near Twitchell Reservoir. That blaze, known as the Alamo Fire, remained 10 percent contained, officials said Sunday morning.

Some 150 to 200 homes were issued evacuation orders, DePinto said.

The county said the area affected hasn’t burned in many years. Smoke from the fire is visible in nearby Santa Maria, a city with more than 100,000 residents.

Authorities have said that ground and air resources have been deployed to face this blaze’s “extreme fire behavior.”

Wildfires burning near a California recreation area have prompted new evacuation calls, according to Santa Barbara County officials.

Meanwhile in Northern California, officials ordered the evacuation of more than 300 homes in Butte County because of another wildfire, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire said.

The blaze known as Wall Fire started Friday and had burned 4,400 acres by Sunday morning when it was 17 percent contained, officials said.

At least 10 structures, including homes, have been destroyed while five others were damaged, officials said.

“The fire continues to burn actively,” the Cal Fire website said Sunday morning. “The fire is burning primarily to the northwest and southwest. Hot dry weather is expected to continue in the fire area.”