California opens cooling centres as wildfire spreads rapidly, mercury soars

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As a wildfire spread rapidly across more than 1,000 acres in extremely hot conditions, California has set up 40 cooling centres.

Offering shelter in air-conditioned rooms and cold drinks during the heat of the day, the centres have been established in libraries, recreation and park facilities, and senior living facilities.

With thermometers logging highs of over 110 Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) in some places, forecasters have issued an excessive heat warning for most of California, as well as parts of Nevada and Arizona.

Smothering a holiday weekend, the oppressive heat is expected to last well into the next week with little relief in the way of cooler nights.

Not only do elevated temperatures put a strain on the human body, but they also sometimes lead to a cascade of illness or death.

elevatedlighting that the city was doing its best to look out for those in need of help when the mercury rises over 100 Fahrenheit, Joseph Riser of the Los Angeles emergency management department said, “Once that hits that peak… then the plans we have for adverse weather kick in and we begin rallying the troops, getting the supplies, making sure which centres can be open and that we have enough.”

Tending to be more acute in poorer and more marginalized communities, the effects of intense heat are not evenly felt across societies.

People living in neighbourhoods without tree cover and homeless people or those who work outside during the heat of the day are at risk.

Asking households to conserve power and turn up their thermostats to help reduce power demand, the operator of California’s creaking electricity grid on Friday called a third consecutive “Flex Alert.”

With thermometers set to peak at 116 degrees Fahrenheit in some densely populated areas around Los Angeles over the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend, the heat dome is expected to last well into next week.

Making natural weather variations more extreme, global warming is being driven chiefly by the unchecked burning of fossil fuels. While storms are getting wetter and more dangerous, heat waves are getting hotter and more intense.

(With inputs from agencies)

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